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Bidvest Succession Under Way as Joffe Focuses on Strategy

Brian Joffe, chief executive officer and founder of Bidvest Group Ltd., said planning for his succession is progressing “very well” with a senior team already in place at South Africa’s biggest diversified industrial company by revenue.

Bidvest said in March that Cyril Ramaphosa would retire as chairman and be succeeded by Lorato Phalatse. Joffe, appointed executive chairman in 1988 and CEO in 2004, has presided over an increase in the company’s market value in the past 20 years to about 86 billion rand ($8.8 billion) from 782 million rand, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales surged to 153 billion rand from 775 million rand.

“The seamless succession of Cyril Ramaphosa by Lorato Phalatse inevitably raises questions about my own succession,” Joffe, 66, said in the company’s annual report published on its website. “This process is already under way. A strong senior team is already in place.”

Bernard Berson, 48, chief Executive of Bidvest Foodservice and Lindsay Ralphs, 57, chief Executive of Bidvest South Africa have been delegated “more and more responsibilities,” Joffe said. “My focus is increasingly on strategic issues and major acquisitions.”

Succession Plan

“There is no indication that Mr. Joffe will step down in the short term and the recent succession plan disclosure in the 2013 annual report provides no new information to the market,” Brent Madel, an analyst at Cape Town-based BPI Capital Africa Pty Ltd., wrote in an e-mailed reply to questions. “We believe the comments are merely to reassure investors that there is a succession plan in place and that Mr Joffe will focus on the the group’s strategy and acquisitive growth opportunities.”

Bidvest shares rose 1.6 percent, the most since Oct. 21, to 264.25 rand in Johannesburg, extending its gain this year to 23 percent. The 165-member FTSE/JSE Africa All Shares Index has risen 16 percent over the same period.

“No doubt the market continues to attribute a premium to the Bidvest stock due to Mr. Joffe’s very successful historical acquisitive strategy which investors believe he can replicate going forward,” Madel said.

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