South African tycoon Christo Wiese has told The Telegraph that there are parallels between the grocery sector in his home country and the highly competitive UK market.
Wiese founded ShopRite in Cape Town in 1979 with just eight stores. Now the company trades from over 2,000 outlets in 15 countries, with sales in South Africa of £2.2bn.
The entrepreneur, who is worth £4.2bn, recently snapped up high street retailer New Look for £1.9bn between April and June this year.
73-year-old Wiese, who also owns a 19% stake in frozen food chain Iceland, has brushed off analysts’ predictions that Britain’s food sector is unlikely to attract new investment and suggested that his investment firm Brait could be making its next venture in the UK’s supermarket industry.
“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.”
Wiese said that he would be prepared to overlook some of Brait’s strict investment criteria if there was the right opportunity in the grocery sector. “I’ve always explained that any business we look at has to tick certain boxes – facing the cash consumer, strong management with a proven track record and with skin in the game, great growth potential both nationally and internationally and hugely cash generative.”
He added: “If Shoprite perceives the right opportunity they will certainly pursue it.”
The billionaire, who has recently launched a new UK discount fashion chain called Pep & Co, also denied that he had ever been interested in acquiring department store chain BHS before it was sold for £1 by Sir Philip Green to Retail Acquisitions.