Trade Tatler
“Quotation (n): The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”
Ambrose Bierce


THIS ISSUE:     01 Dec - 07 Dec

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Steinhoff  What a difference a day makes

The story we were going to post about Steinhoff and its pending Shoprite acquisition included the words “the birth of an African retail behemoth” and other such peppy stuff. But all of that has had to be rewritten. With the shock revelations of accounting malpractice at Steinhoff, the resignation of CEO Markus Jooste, his emergency replacement by Christo Wiese, and the immediate loss of some $8.3 billion in shareholder value, Steinhoff is a heavyweight well and truly on the ropes. The troubles began to come to a head in August this year when a German newspaper reported that the business’ headquarters had been raided in 2015 as part of an investigation by German authorities into possible fraud by four senior management, including Jooste. The next days and weeks will surely bring fresh revelations as the scandal – which some are likening to a pyramid scheme and the collapse of Africa Bank - unwinds. The news about irregularities surrounding many of its acquisitions as far back as 2000 must surely also call into question the restructuring that led to the establishment of Steinhoff Retail Arica (Star), the entity under which Shoprite would fall, as well as the unexpected and tight-lipped departure of Whitey Basson and the haste of his R100m share pay out.
Comment: Shoprite stock lost 6% in value on the news. It is to be hoped that that is where the damage ends.

Business Day 07/12/17

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Woolworths  An outbreak of influencer

The Dapper One held its AGM last week, and according to various flies on the wall it was a fairly bland affair, with little in the way of explanation of what has caused the share to go off the boil these past months and why executive remuneration doesn’t reflect this reality. While Mr Moir did acknowledge that execution of the strategy in Aus might not have been all that, Simon Susman talked up prospects down under on the back of a four-day strategy session in that stricken geography; he is convinced that change is blowing across the outback like a mysterious wind. In other Woolies news, the retailer is an early adopter of something called “influencers” on something else called “Instagram.” Far as we can tell, the emphasis there is on the many fashion brands under the Woolies aegis, although by gosh some of the stuff on the woolworthsfood stream or thread or whatever looks good enough to eat!
Comment: Come on Woolies. Time to make the punters happy again.

Financial Mail 30/11/17

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Store Openings  Future Perfect

Big up to Makro, who have opened their 21st store, strategically located in Riversands, between the affluent shoppers of Dainfern and the value-driven customers of Diespsloot. The latest addition to Massmart’s flagship trading brand is a 21st century masterpiece of sustainability, connectivity and value, with innovations too numerous to list here – for a closer look, click over here instead. Pick n Pay, meanwhile, has reopened its iconic Hyper by the Sea in Durban North as the first of its next-generation Hypermarkets. It’s cleanly designed, colourful and easy to navigate, and offers shoppers a full basket of value-added services, with ultra-modern next gen alcoves.
Comment: Fabulous stuff from the big-store formats last week. Enough excitement to make us think we need a new TV.

Tatler Reporter 04/12/17

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Forecourts  The Great Track

Some arcane material from the perpetual twilight of South Africa’s forecourts, where people go to obtain fossil fuels for their conveyances and mysteriously end up with little bags of dried meat and elaborately-poured beverages. Research outfit Lightstone Explore has teamed up with Tracker, which keeps tabs on the 2.5million trips their customers undertake daily, to find out who’s winning and who’s losing the race for the wallet of the South African traveller. And some of the stuff they’ve turned up has urgent relevance for our own great industry. For example, did you know that a BP with a Pick n Pay has a conversion rate of 8.1% vs a BP without at 4.9%? Of course you didn’t. The conversion rate, by the way, is the ratio of the punters opting to swing by the gas station to those who don’t. With Engens with a Woolies its 9% compared to the overall Engen rate of 5.3%. For sites with a Steers, the conversion rate is 10.4%, while for Wimpy’s it’s an astronomical 14.9% – although the situation of these chains on freeway plazas has some bearing there.
Comment: Look to the numbers, people. That’s where the good stuff is.

Engineering News 27/11/17

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Nestlé  An open and shut case

Sadly, Nestlé are closing their plant in the DRC, at a cost of 120 jobs, which we can only imagine are in fairly short supply in that troubled geography. The business opened there in 2009 with a $15m plant producing Maggi stock cubes, but has run at a loss ever since. While the DRC is seeking to modernise its resources-based economy, it is being hindered in these efforts by the continued and unwelcome presence of President Joseph Kabila. In more welcome news, Nestlé is opening a $55m coffee and biscuits factory in Cuba, in a JV with the government of that sadly besieged and embattled island. And up in Switzerland, activist shareholder Dan Loeb, who owns about 1.3% of Nestlé’s stock is pressurising the business to sell its stake in L’Oréal for reasons of money.
Comment: In our next life, were going to be an activist shareholder, with a large pile of cash, a bigger sense of entitlement and a mouth to match.

Bizcommunity 04/12/17, Reuters 29/11/17, IOL 28/11

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Long4Life  Lust for Life

Long4Life – a business whose name either sounds plaintively wistful or rudely boastful, has announced that it plans to acquire the Cape-based beverage business Chill. The sale of Chill, which itself has an achingly groovy name, brings such products as hipster-darling Fitch & Leedes mixers and the more proletarian Score energy drink to market, and is also a significant supplier to Diageo, will end up fetching as much as R734m for the current owners, who have signalled their approval of the deal by taking half of it on shares. While the market hasn’t exactly done handsprings, Long4Life CEO Brian Joffe is sanguine about the acquisition. “This business has got to a point where it needs, I suppose, a bigger daddy,” he drawls with characteristic insouciance. “They’ve got some very good brands they want to expand into the rest of SA where they aren’t.”
Comment: Consumer Goods Industry, now is the time to ask yourself, are you ready for a shakeup? This is Brian Joffe, the Iggy Pop of corporate career reinvention we’re talking about.

Business Day 01/12/17

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The Economy  Confusion reigns

Amid the darkening economic news – ratings downgrades, unemployment at nearly 28%, a level last seen in 2003, the IMF waiting in the wings to saunter in and call the shots, business confidence at a 30-year low, that sort of thing – some slightly more positive news. For starters, the PPI – the measure of factory gate inflation – has moderated to 5% after overheating somewhat in September. The country has recorded its 9th straight trade surplus, for the month of October. The dear old ZAR has strengthened against a weakening USD (although that’s not universal cause for celebration), on the hopes of new leadership and with it the prospects of economic reform. Food inflation is closing on zero, although again that’s not great news for everyone. And back to the downside – despite the moderating PPI, the volatility of the rand and higher oil prices are likely to drive inflation up again – and with it the chances that the Reserve Bank will up the repo rate.
Comment: So a mixed bag of data – but one which argues that as usual things are not cut and dried here in the Beloved Country, and that there’s life in our old bones yet.

Tatler Reporter 04/12/17

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Tyson Foods  Heavy hitter

Tyson Foods has a new Chief Financial Officer in the person of Stewart Glendinning, who was a classmate of ours back at the Old Place before going on to greater things, which in his case included a recent stint as President and CEO of Molson Coors International. Tyson’s is one of the world’s largest food businesses: based in Alabama, it owns a massive chunk of the US protein market, including its eponymous and indeed ubiquitous chicken lines. The young Glendinning was a formidable workhorse and a canny operator with exceptional people skills, qualities which have taken him far in this great industry we call home.

Tatler Reporter 04/12/17

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Appointments  Comings and Goings

Reynolds CEO Debra Crew is out just four months after BAT bought the business “to pursue other opportunities outside the company” according to BAT, and not her. And over at IMPERIAL, Carsten Taucke CEO of IMPERIAL Logistics International, is stepping down with immediate effect, to spend time with his family and pursue other priorities. A chill wind is whistling through the boardroom it seems.

Tatler Reporter 04/12/17

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