More jobs on the line as Massmart considers closing 34 stores

By Janice Kew

(Bloomberg) – Massmart Holdings started consulting with unions about store closures and jobs cuts, as the South African unit of Walmart battles to recover from an earnings slump.

The plan is to shutter the 23-store Dion-Wired chain of hi-tech appliance shops and 11 Masscash wholesale outlets, a spokesman said by phone on Monday. Employees and the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union have been informed and the process may take at least two months, he said.

About 1,440 employees could be affected, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement. The shares climbed 2.4% to R50 as of 11:22am in the South African city.

The move marks the first significant act by Massmart’s new chief executive officer, Mitchell Slape, who arrived from Walmart in September with a brief to turn around the retailer. The company, which also owns the South African chains Game and Makro, slumped to a loss in the first half of last year as shoppers stayed away amid an economic downturn.

Massmart cut its full-year dividend by 40% last year and scrapped its interim dividend. The stock has more than halved in value over the past 12 months, the worst performer of the 13 stocks on the FTSE/JSE Africa General Retailers Index.

Massmart has a total of almost 450 stores across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and about 48,500 full-time employees.

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