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Massmart to Spend $313 Million on Expansion, 40 Stores

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Massmart Holdings Ltd., South Africa’s biggest food and goods wholesaler, will spend about 2.6 billion rand ($313 million) in the second half of this year and 2013 as it expands and plans to open as many as 40 new stores.

Massmart expects net trading margins to start climbing from 2014 once the company “overcomes the hurdles” of increasing its number of distribution centers and upgrading its technology systems, Chief Executive Officer Grant Pattison said on a conference call today.

Massmart shares have climbed 21 percent since South Africa’s Competition Tribunal in May last year approved Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s acquisition of a controlling stake in the company.

Massmart, with close to 340 stores in 12 African countries south of the Sahara, spent a record 1.7 billion rand in replacement and expansion costs in the fiscal year ended June 25. The company, which increased its cash from operations by 63 percent to 2.7 billion rand, isn’t planning to raise money to fund growth as internal cash flows are adequate, Pattison said.

Net income rose 40 percent from a year earlier to 1.17 billion rand in the year, the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement today. Sales increased 16 percent to 61.2 billion rand. Trading profit, or earnings before interest, taxes and some financial items, rose 3.8 percent to 2.3 billion rand.

The company plans to open 30 to 40 stores in the next 18 months, with five of these in Africa outside its home market, Pattison said. Africa expansion is being slowed by the company’s difficulties in securing property, he said.

Purchase Approved

Massmart rose 0.3 percent to 169.50 rand at the close in Johannesburg, bringing the stock’s gain in the past 12 months to 11 percent, compared with a 43 percent gain for the FTSE/JSE Africa General Retailers Index.

Wal-Mart’s purchase of 51 percent of Massmart was approved last year, subject to conditions including the setup of a 100 million-rand fund to assist local suppliers and promises not to fire employees. While the transaction is “legally complete” Massmart is still waiting for the final court ruling on the makeup of the fund and the company has not been notified of the date, Pattison said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Janice Kew in Johannesburg at jkew4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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