South African billionaire Christo Wiese, who owns Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite, is eyeing acquisitions in Britain’s struggling supermarket industry for possible acquisitions, The Telegraph reported.
Earlier this year, Wiese, 73, who is estimated to be worth $6.4 billion, snapped up Virgin Active, a gym chain previously owned by maverick British billionaire Richard Branson and a high-street UK retailer, New Look.
“The UK is extremely competitive but I can assure you it is as competitive in South Africa, if not more,” he told The Telegraph. “We South Africans find it very easy to do business in the UK; it is similar, and it has the same challenges.”
UK top retail chains are reeling from a vicious price war and changing shopping habits and has cut earnings for most supermarkets, with some analysts doubting that the sector could attract any new investments.
Through his investment firm, Braits, Wiese has been linked with a potential takeover of Morrisons, the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. He had also been linked to taking over the department store chain BHS before it was sold for £1 by Sir Philip Green to Retail Acquisitions.
Wiese’s Shoprite has been on an aggressive expansion plan across Africa that it says could see it double its outlets across the region by the end of this year. The retailer has managed to beat off competition from American-backed Wal-Mart, which is also eying the African markets.
He started Shoprite in 1979 with just eight stores in Cape Town, but the company now owns more than 2,000 supermarkets, furniture shops and food outlets in 15 countries, with sales in South Africa of $3.4 billion.
The World Retail Congress Hall of Fame is planning to honor Wiese next week for his great work in the retail business.