Choppies sorts out shareholder dispute in Zimbabwe

Choppies stores yesterday opened its doors in Kumalo.
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Settlement ends wrangle between politician and retailer, but market still in the dark over delayed results.

Botswana- and JSE-listed retail group Choppies says it has resolved its dispute with Zimbabwe’s former second vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko and his son Siqokoqela Mphoko after they “disinvested” from its Zimbabwean operation.

The dispute arose when the Mphokos and Choppies, which operates 212 stores in SA, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, fell out over the size of their holding in Nanavac Investments, a Choppies subsidiary in Zimbabwe.

The Mphokos said they were 51% shareholders but Choppies claimed they only had a 7% stake, according to several reports. The matter was taken to the Zimbabwean high court but was resolved out of court.

No details of the settlement were given, other than both parties  saying in a joint statement that they “have amicably resolved and settled all issues, matters, cases and disputes”.

Although Choppies said its shareholder disagreement was resolved, it once again did not give an explanation for why it had not published its results for the year to end-June 2018. The group said on September 21 that its results would come out late because its new auditor, PwC, said several accounting matters required “independent verification and expert legal analysis”.

The Botswana Stock Exchange and the JSE have since suspended it for publishing of its results late.

When Choppies announced that the results would be delayed, it also warned that after-tax profit would be at least 20% lower when compared to the 74.64-million pula ($6.95m) in the previous corresponding period. This was despite after-tax profit rising 21% to 67.65-million pula in its half year.

The group announced on December 18 that financial director Sanooj Pullarote resigned on December 15 but would continue to provide assistance to Choppies until the financial results were published. Hein Stander replaced Pullarote with immediate effect.

Choppies did not respond to questions on when its results would be released or whether it had bought out the Mphokos’ holding in Nanavac.