Billionaire Christo Wiese takes blow as Brait struggles with losses

19 June 2018 - 14:07 By Janice Kew
Christo Wiese.
Christo Wiese.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

Billionaire Christo Wiese received more bad news as shares of the investment company in which he’s the biggest shareholder fell after the firm posted an annual loss.

Brait SE, in which Wiese owns a 35% stake, said net asset value was 57.32 rand at the end of March, compared with 78.15 rand a year earlier, as retailer New Look struggled amid a sales slump on the U.K.’s shopping streets. The company’s other assets include fitness chain Virgin Active and supermarket chain Iceland.

Wiese’s net worth plunged when Steinhoff International Holdings, in which he was the largest investor, reported accounting irregularities late last year. While Brait is unrelated to the scandal-hit clothing and furniture retailer, its stock has slumped 42% over the past 12 months. The 76-year old is now worth about $2.3-billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, compared with $5-billion before the Steinhoff scandal erupted.

Brait shares lost as much as 6% before paring losses to trade 1.3% lower at 12.28 p.m. in Johannesburg. The company posted a R10.1-billion full-year loss, compared with R16-billion a year earlier, according to a statement Tuesday.

Wiese quit as a non-executive director of New Look last month and as non-executive chairman of Brait South Africa, citing time constraints as he gears up for a legal battle with Steinhoff. He’s suing the owner of Conforama in France and Mattress Firm in the US for R59-billion.

Wiese has this year sold shares in Shoprite, Brait and Aspen Pharmacare to raise cash. The billionaire’s stake in Steinhoff was cut to about 6% earlier this year, from 20.5%, after banks sold stock put up by the former chairman to secure margin loans.

- Bloomberg