BSE action on Choppies hangs on audit report

Choppies employs more than 15,000 in seven countries
Choppies employs more than 15,000 in seven countries

The Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSE) says the fate of Choppies’ listing depends on the eagerly awaited audit report into the troubled regional grocer’s affairs.

The BSEL suspended Choppies last November, having temporarily halted its trades in September due to the non-release of results for the 2018 financial year.

Under the Exchange’s tougher new listing rules, which kicked in this year, delisted firms cannot reapply for listing on the bourse.

Due to the non-compliance, Choppies has been listed on the BSEL’s default board since January 1, but has escaped the daily P500 fines due to its status as a suspended counter.

“As with investors, the BSE awaits the release of the audit report,” BSEL spokesperson, Thapelo Moribame said in a response to written enquiries.

“It is in the best interest of the shareholders to await release of this report before any further action can be taken by the Exchange.”

The eagerly awaited forensic report, being spearheaded by leading law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa, has reportedly been finalised and is due before the Choppies board.

Norton Rose engaged auditors Ernest & Young for the report, which the board hopes to circulate to shareholders before holding a crunch extraordinary general meeting next month.

Moribame said the BSEL’s main committee was yet to consider further action on Choppies.

“The BSEL considers the matter on an ongoing basis and has to date decided to continue keeping the counter listed, albeit suspended from trading,” she said.

Traditionally, the BSEL is hesitant to delist non-compliant counters, preferring instead to handhold firms back to compliance.

One firm, Olympia Capital Corporation, spent four years suspended on the BSEL, before bouncing back in December 2017.

Choppies accounted for about six percent of the BSEL’s domestic market capitalisation early last September, before crashing by 76% on September 29 when the board indicated it could not state when the 2018 financials would be released.

At present, Choppies accounts for about 2.2 percent of the Domestic Companies Index capitalisation of P39.3 billion and is its ninth smallest counter of the 23 firms listed.

While the numbers suggest a Choppies’ delisting would not greatly affect the BSEL, the regional grocer’s fortunes are tied to many on the Exchange, including banks, property firms and others.

Analysts believe a forced delisting would be a heavy blow and could be read as a vote of no confidence in the group.

Already, Choppies’ major lenders, most of whom are listed locally, have raised questions about the group’s finances, even going so far as to request a certificate of solvency. Choppies apparently asked to defer the request until its 2018 results are finalised.

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