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Choppies to sell Kenya property

Choppies
Choppies sent home 583 workers in recent months and now operates only two outlets from the previous 15. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Batswana retailer Choppies Supermarket has put up for sale its retail equipment and property in Kenya weeks after scaling down local stores from more than 15 to two.

The retailer, which did not specify in regulatory filings Friday how much it expects to fetch, said proceeds will help to retire some of its debt.

“Operations have since been scaled down to only two stores and negotiations are ongoing to sell equipment to local operators and/or existing landlords to clear some of the outstanding liabilities,” said the Botswana Stock Exchange-listed Choppies in a circular to shareholders.

Choppies fired 583 workers in recent months as it struggled to survive strained cash flows and heightened competition for Kenyan shopping basket.

The retailer axed 486 workers in November 2019 while 97 others left months earlier, according to documents filed in court.

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Choppies and the Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers are embroiled in a court battle over fears it may quit Kenya without settling dues of the laid off staff.

“486 employees were declared redundant by a notice dated November 15, 2019…51 employees were declared redundant at Nanyuki by notice dated October 31, 2019 while 46 employees exited employment for other reasons other than redundancy,” court documents say.

The workers who left Choppies accounted for 72 percent of the retailer's 799 unionisable workers.

Choppies last year announced a plan to sell more than half of its 15 stores amid struggles to grow market share.

The sale plan came four years after it acquired Ukwala stores for Sh1 billion as a launch pad to East Africa. Choppies owns 75 percent of the Kenyan unit with the balance held by local shareholders Export Trading Group (ETG).

It has already written off Sh1.6 billion from the local subsidiary. The retailer informed investors that its inability to access loans led to stock-outs in the Kenya operations, which posted a loss of Sh248.7 million in the delayed 2018 results.

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