Budget retailer Choppies said on Monday that it had closed bids for its South African stores, which had opened a fortnight ago. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – Budget retailer Choppies said yesterday that it had closed bids for its South African stores, which had opened a fortnight ago. 

Botswana-based Choppies said it would now be engaging with bidders, which “may result in negotiations being entered into and agreement being reached for the sale of the South African operations/subsidiaries of the company.” 

Choppies has 88 stores in South Africa and operates in eight African countries.

Choppies, which is restructuring its operations, in August said it was considering pulling out of its South African operations after a review of the business and that it had received offers. 

It is exiting other countries in Africa and said recently that it had received interest on its Tanzanian business and was in talks to offload its Kenyan operations. Its long-delayed results for 2018 are expected to be released by December 6.

Choppies was suspended on both the JSE and Botswana Stock Exchange last year as the battle for control of the retailer swung back and forth between founding chief executive Ramachandran Ottapathu and a now-defunct board, which put him out to pasture on allegations of financial misappropriation. 

The group said it had also beefed-up its legal fronts with the appointments of advocates Mark Meyerowitz and Andrew Redding SC to advise on any employee, including Ottapathu.

Last month it said the board had appointed independent counsel to conduct a holistic review of all reports, rebuttals, facts and available evidence.

It had retained the services of Meyerowitz and Guy Hoffman to advise on corporate governance, directors’ duties and the collective responsibility of the board up to September 3 this year. “These counsels have commenced their review. Their report is expected at the end of November,” the group said.

Ottapathu, who recently regained his foothold in the group via shareholder vote, is aligned with the group's deputy chairperson and co-founder Farouk Ismail in proclaiming his innocence. 

The two are against non-executive directors Ronald Tamale, Wilfred Mpai, Dorcas Kgosietsile and former Botswana president Festus Mogae, who say they launched two investigations, one legal and one forensic, to address serious governance concerns raised by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ottapathu was accused of using R137 million of the retailer’s cash to finance the acquisition of his personal 50 percent stake in competing retailer, Fours Group.