File image: The Johannesburg Stock Exchange. (File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko).
JOHANNESBURG - Investment company Brait yesterday reported a R10.15billion loss for the year to end March, as the group struggled to make headway into the UK market.

The company said its net asset value also fell to R57.32 a share from R78.15 last year, as UK clothing retailer New Look dragged down its performance.

Brait’s shares have declined 42percent in the last 12 months.

Last year the group reported a R16.03bn loss.

Brait, however, said that it remained confident that its fortunes in the UK could be turned around.

“New Look’s turnaround plan is now well under way and has already made substantial operational improvements to help stabilise the business, reduce its fixed cost base and attain a better position to drive full price sale,” Brait said in a statement.

Besides New Look, Brait also owns gym chain Virgin Active, British supermarket Iceland Foods and Premier.

The group said New Look was disappointing, with its performance suffering from a combination of challenging market conditions and significant self-inflicted issues.

New Look's revenue decreased by 7.3percent in the comparative period, with group like-for-like sales declining by 11.4percent and with UK like-for-like sales decreasing by 11.7percent.

The group pinned New Look’s under-performance to a number of issues, including its product positioning, which it said had moved away from broad appeal.

It said New Look also chased e-commerce sales at the expense of profitability.

Virgin Active, however, performed better, with profitable growth and a strengthened balance sheet.

Revenue and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) for continuing operations increased by 13percent and 19percent on the comparative year respectively.

On a constant currency basis, revenue and Ebitda for continuing operations increased by 5percent and 7percent respectively.

Virgin Active comprises 233 clubs in eight countries at the end of December, consisting of 1.2 million members.

It opened 10 new clubs, six in South Africa, two in Asia Pacific and one in both the UK and Italy.

Premier’s Ebitda increased by 13percent on a sixth-month period, with the group identifying the maize business as the main contributor for the improved performance.

However, for 12 months Ebitda was down by 7percent, a significant improvement from the 24percent reported last year.

The group said Iceland Foods remained intensely competitive and price focused.

Iceland’s sales for the 53 weeks to end March grew by 8percent, with like-for-like sales up 2.3percent.

The slump in Brait profits spelled further headaches for South African billionaire businessperson Christo Wiese, who suffered massive losses after one of his major investments, Steinhoff International, saw its profits collapsing following an accounting irregularities scandal that has wiped $12bn (R162.4bn) off its balance sheet last December.

Wiese has a 35percent stake in Brait and backed its purchase of New Look in 2015 in a $1.2bn deal.

Wiese suffered another blow this week when Invicta flagged that its earnings had buckled as a result of an additional R400million it raised for potential tax consequences stemming from the funding of legacy transactions.

Brait did not declare a dividend as the board has resolved to reduce debt.

Brait rose 3.36percent on the JSE yesterday to close at R38.50.

- BUSINESS REPORT