Christo Wiese’s Brait reveals it has Brexit jitters; shelves London plans

Christo Wiese, billionaire and chairman of Steinhoff Holdings NV. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Brait SE, an investment company which counts South African billionaire Christo Wiese among its shareholders, is postponing plans to list on the London stock exchange or move its head office to the UK. It has cited Brexit jitters as the reason for its change of plan. Brait is the latest in a growing line of investment companies – including the giants like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – looking elsewhere in Europe to put down roots as a result of uncertainty about how the UK will operate after Brexit. Multinational banks have also indicated that they are developing plans to relocate operations to other European centres. Dublin looks particularly appealing for some, as Ireland is also English-speaking. On the other hand, as Bloomberg notes, some companies are planning to enter Britain to take advantage of commitments to reduce corporate tax following Brexit. The divorce between Britain and Europe will undoubtedly be a bit messy, though there will always be opportunities for the astute. Brait is adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach on whether London will continue to be a major force in the world post-Brexit. – Jackie Cameron

By John Bowker

Bloomberg – Brait SE, the investment company part-owned by South African billionaire Christo Wiese, abandoned plans to move its head office to the U.K. and seek a London stock market listing because of uncertainty over the U.K.’s pending exit from the European Union.

“In light of the uncertainty introduced by the timing and form of Brexit and the potential impact on capital markets, the board has determined not to proceed with the transfer and premium listing at this time,” the San Gwann, Malta-based company said in a statement Friday. Brait “remains convinced of the long-term benefits” of the move, and could revive the plans at a later date, it said.

Brait said in September it planned to move to the U.K. after significantly increasing its exposure to the country in 2015, when it bought gym chain Virgin Active and clothing retailer New Look and increased its stake in discount grocer Iceland.

The postponement of Brait’s plans comes as banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley say they’re preparing to move staff and operations away from the U.K. capital to other locations within the EU. By contrast, some international companies are moving their head offices to Britain, lured by a government commitment to lower corporation-tax rates.

Brait’s Johannesburg-listed stock has halved since the June 23 Brexit vote, which Wiese said in December he hadn’t expected.

Wiese, South Africa’s third-richest man with a net worth of $6.2 billion, owns a 35 percent stake in Brait. The shares pared gains and traded 0.4 percent higher at 77.81 rand at 1.30 p.m. in Johannesburg.