Choppies trading halt to be probed by JSE

By Thembisile Dzonzi

(Bloomberg) – The Johannesburg Stock Exchange will investigate why it wasn’t informed of a trading halt in Botswana’s biggest grocer until long after the securities were suspended by its counterparts in Gaborone.

About 6 million shares traded in Choppies Enterprises Ltd. on the Johannesburg market before the announcement at 12:47pm local time that the securities have been suspended, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Botswana Stock Exchange had announced a halt pending an announcement of a delay in the company’s audited financial statements just before 10am.

File Photo: A sign sits above the entrance to a Choppies supermarket, operated by Choppies Enterprises Ltd., in Rustenburg, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“We suspended the moment that we knew, the inference you can take from that is that no one told us,” John Burke, director of issuer regulation at the JSE, where Choppies has a secondary listing, said by phone. “We have to now figure out who is at fault, was it the exchange, the sponsor or the company.”

The suspension was lifted at about 1:42pm after Choppies said it is unable to determine when it will publish its audited earnings statements. The company’s board and new external auditors, PwC, had “identified matters relating to the current and earlier financial periods which require independent verification and expert legal analysis.”

The stock closed 4.2 percent higher in Johannesburg on Thursday, with almost 16.7 million shares changing hands. The securities plunged 75 percent on Tuesday, when the company said its results are taking longer than anticipated to finalise and that earnings will probably be more than 20 percent lower. The stock has lost 83 percent this year.

Calls to the offices of Chief Financial Officer Sanooj Pullarote and Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu weren’t answered.

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