Photo: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - Shoprite Holdings Ltd., South Africa’s largest retailer, fell the most in more than four months as food sales slowed and store closures for the funeral of former President Nelson Mandela eroded December revenue.

The shares declined as much as 4.4 percent, the biggest intraday drop since August 27, and traded 3.8 percent lower at 152.75 rand as of 11:04 a.m. in Johannesburg.

The stock lost 18 percent last year.

Sales rose 9.6 percent to 51 billion rand ($4.7 billion) in the six months through December, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement today.

That compares with 13.8 percent growth in the same period a year earlier.

Shoprite food prices climbed by an average of 3.8 percent in the period, lower than the country’s official figure of 5.6 percent.

Shoprite was among several retailers to close South African stores on December 15 to mark the funeral of Mandela, the country’s first black president who died earlier that month at the age of 95.

The decision cost about 260 million rand in sales, or 0.7 percent of revenue in the six month period.

Sales from Shoprite’s main South African market rose by 7.6 percent, compared with growth of 11.5 percent in 2012.

The country’s retailers struggled last year as rising prices and unemployment pushed consumer confidence to the lowest level in a decade.

The Reserve Bank has kept the benchmark repurchase rate unchanged at a 30-year low in an effort to boost spending.

Shoprite supermarket sales outside the country excluding currency shifts gained 14.9 percent, compared to 23.5 percent a year earlier. - Bloomberg News