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Edcon quietly bids CFO farewell

26 June 2016 - 02:02 By PALESA VUYOLWETHU TSHANDU

Edcon chief financial officer Toon Clerckx quietly stepped down from his position last week - so quietly, in fact, that no one noticed. His departure has once again thrown a spotlight on the group's troubles. Clerckx was with the ailing retail group for more than two years and part of the strategic team brought in to drive the group's debt-restructuring initiatives, after it declared a R714-million loss in the three months through to June 2013.Edcon, owner of Edgars, Jet, Legit, CNA and Boardmans, has been unable to gain market share since its R25-billion acquisition by US private equity firm Bain Capital Partners in 2007, which burdened it with debt.story_article_left1Kyle Rollinson, equity analyst at Avior Capital Markets, said Clerckx's resignation "is a sign of the times at Edcon. They have lost a lot of human capital. It's not easy to work for any business that's performing badly. For a CFO trying to manage that amount of debt in a tough consumer environment [it] is challenging."Edcon announced the resignation on its website last week.Asked why Clerckx resigned, an Edcon spokesperson said: "Mr Clerckx indicated he would like to move on at some point in the future." The statement said Richard Vaughan, deputy chief financial officer for the past four years, would replace him with immediate effect.Vaughan now has to bear the burden of a retailer in crisis as Edcon's third-quarter results for 2016 showed that its credit sales declined 9.3% in its Edgars division, while trading profit shed 17%. Previously, credit sales were the main driver of the group's sales, but have slowed since Barclays Africa Group (Absa) bought Edcon's store-card portfolio of 3.8million active account holders for R10-billion in 2012. Since then , Edcon has built the number to 12million card holders. It has nearly fourmillion account holders, which includes the in-house book.In 2014, Edcon created a second in-store credit book, which vets customers that may have failed to meet Barclays Africa's lending standards.According to Barclays Africa's full-year 2013 results, Edcon's 2013 credit-loss ratio was 11.86%, compared with 5.03% in the previous year.An analyst who declined to be named said Absa bought Edcon when the loss rate was high, "so they knew what they were getting into. Absa has been the most cautious with regards to extending credit. If we look at the growth of Absa's credit book, which includes Edcon, it grew at 10% in 2013, 10% in 2014 and it's only in 2015 where it slowed to 2%. From what we can see it's not a risk; people put on the brakes immediately after the deal."tshandup@sundaytimes.co.za..

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