CEO of South Africa's Second-Biggest Company to Step Down

  • Bidvest founder Brian Joffe to hand over to Ralphs as CEO
  • Will become executive chairman of food services company

Brian Joffe, who founded Bidvest Group Ltd. almost 30 years ago, plans to step down as chief executive officer of South Africa’s second-biggest company by sales after the food-services unit is spun off and its shares sold on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Joffe, 68, will hand over to Lindsay Ralphs, currently CEO of the company’s South African Industrials unit, Joffe said in a presentation in Johannesburg on Monday. Joffe will continue as a director and assist with advice on “strategic issues” when needed, he said. He will become executive chairman of the food-services company.

“I will continue to play a role in South Africa to ensure that my expertise and experience that I have gained over the years will be made available,” he said.

Joffe founded Bidvest as Bid Corporation in 1988 and has built the Johannesburg-based company through acquisitions into a conglomerate with interests ranging from car dealerships to catering and pharmaceutical products. Bidvest announced this month it will sell shares in its food-services business in Johannesburg, 15 months after abandoning a plan to list the unit in London.

“I’m very proud that I can walk into the distance over time and be sure that this company will be in a growth phase,” Joffe said in an interview. “Am I sad? A little. Am I proud? Very.”

Food Services

Bidvest’s food-services unit, its biggest by sales, posted a 23 percent increase in first-half profit to 2.3 billion rand. The unit includes businesses from catering to food-processing, and operates in more than 20 countries across Europe, Australasia, the Middle East and Southern Africa.

Bidvest plans to spin off the business completely, pending shareholder and regulatory approvals, and will provide further details in a prelisting statement that will probably be available in the next month or so, Ralphs said in an interview after the presentation. Both Bidvest and the new food-services company see growth opportunities and are likely to seek acquisitions following the split, Ralphs and food-services CEO Bernard Berson said during the presentation.

The company hasn’t abandoned plans to list on a stock-exchange outside of South Africa, although it will be more of a “medium-term" timeframe, Joffe said.

The shares declined 0.4 percent to 359.25 rand as of 2:46 p.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 121 billion rand ($7.5 billion).

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