There was a voting bungle at Virgin Active's owner - it made billionaire Christo Wiese seem less unpopular than he actually is

Business Insider SA
Christo Wiese. Photo: Jaco Marais
  • Due to "inadvertent errors", the initial results of a recent shareholder vote at Brait were wrong.
  • The group announced the corrected numbers last week - which shows that the resistance against re-appointing ex-chair Christo Wiese as director is bigger than initially thought.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

The investment company Brait has had to inform shareholders that there was a mistake in their voting results at the group's recent annual meeting.

Brait owns 72% of Virgin Active, as well as stakes in the UK retailer Iceland (63%), New Look (18,5%) and Premier Foods (96%), which owns brands like Snowflake, Iwisa and Blue Ribbon bread.

Initially, it announced that votes representing shareholdings of 29.9% went against re-appointing Christo Wiese, the group's biggest shareholder, as a director. The meeting was held on 31 July, reports Netwerk24.

But there was a problem, it turns out:

“The Company has been made aware of inadvertent errors in the process of the Company's transfer secretaries Computershare compiling the voting results based on the voting instructionsthey received from Strate, the authorised Central Securities Depository ("CSD") for the electronic settlement of all financial instruments in South Africa,” Brait announced last week.

In fact, even more shareholders – representing a stake of 30.8% in Brait - voted against Wiese. Wiese holds 36% of Brait. This means that, excluding Wiese, less than a third supported him.

The biggest shareholders in Brait, after Wiese, are the Public Investment Corporation (which manages civil servant pensions) and Allan Gray, reports Netwerk24.

Allan Gray's Leonard Kruger told Netwerk24 that the group told clients to vote against Wiese as director, as they did in the previous year. It said that it won't make its reasons public.

Old Mutual Investment Group also voted against Wiese.

Jan Meintjes, portfolio manager at Denker Capital, believes that Wiese faces resistance among shareholders because of a lack of confidence in him.

Wiese retired as Brait chairperson in May last year,  to focus on his legal battle with Steinhoff, which is suing for R59 billion. but remained on as director. 

Brait's share price. Source: Fin24

Brait’s share price is currently around its lowest levels in ten years.

It made losses of more than R10 billion in both the past two years, with its UK clothing retailer taking massive strain. Brait bought 90% of New Look for R14.2bn in May 2015 - almost exactly a year before the Brexit vote, which wreaked havoc on consumer confidence in the UK. Brait has since had to write off the entire investment. Its other UK retailer, the cheap food shop Iceland, has also taken strain.

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