By Janice Kew and Michael Cohen
Investor vote enables repurchase of stock from Whitey Basson
Basson welcomes certainty over price he’ll get for stock
Shoprite Holdings Ltd. shareholders voted in favor of the purchase of about 1.75 billion rand ($135 million) of shares from former Chief Executive Officer Whitey Basson, enabling Africa’s largest food retailer to buy at a discount to the current share price.
The decision enables the Cape Town-based company to buy 8.68 million shares from Basson at 201.01 rand a share after he exercised a put option granted to him 14 years ago. That compares with a market price of 221.98 rand as of 10:54 a.m. in Johannesburg.
Billionaire Christo Wiese, Shoprite’s largest shareholder and South Africa’s fourth-richest person with a net worth of $5.6 billion, said Aug. 22 that the 2003 put option served to ensure Basson didn’t “flood the market” with shares and was also part of an incentive to retain him in the role. The shares could always be reissued to investors, he said after the Tuesday vote.
The decision comes weeks before a partial tie-up of Shoprite and the African unit of retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV, a deal that allows Wiese, the chairman and biggest shareholder of both companies, to combine his retail assets after a proposed merger fell through earlier this year.
Speaking after the vote in Cape Town, Basson said he was pleased with the outcome as this gave him certainty over the price he will get for the stock. His position as vice chairman ends at the end of this month and he’s still considering his next move, he said. Basson, 71, retired as CEO at the end of 2016 after almost four decades in the role.
The former CEO still holds some Shoprite shares through other companies in which he has stakes, he said Aug. 22, without specifying the amount.
Wiese owns about 15 percent of Shoprite’s ordinary listed shares and a further 30 percent in voting rights. The Public Investment Corp., which looks after state-worker pensions and is the continent’s biggest money manager with assets of 1.6 trillion rand, holds about 10 percent of the company and is its second-largest shareholder. The move was backed by 95 percent of the shareholders that voted, with 12 percent of shareholders abstaining.
Steinhoff’s African unit, known as Star, will purchase about 128 million Shoprite shares at 215 rand each as part of a planned spin off from its parent company. It will own almost 23 percent of the food retailer after the deal.