SABMiller considers shedding stake in casino chain Tsogo Sun
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SABMiller is considering a sale of its near-40 per cent stake in South African hotel and casino chain Tsogo Sun, a holding worth more than $1bn.
The London-listed brewer on Tuesday said it was reviewing its strategic options for the shareholding, one of its few non-core assets, adding that “there can be no certainty that the review will result in SABMiller taking any action”.
News that the company is taking stock of its 30-year involvement in Tsogo Sun comes at time of change at the world’s second-biggest brewer by sales.
Alan Clark, former head of SABMiller’s European operations, took over as chief executive a year ago, succeeding the long-serving Graham Mackay, who died in December of a brain tumour.
The brewer also announced this month that it would merge its South African business with its wider African operations in a bid to exert greater central control over a company that has more than 200 beer brands and 70,000 employees across more than 75 countries.
“One of the features of SABMiller is it wants to run itself much more as a group . . . as opposed to a collection of beer businesses that function very much as local entities,” said Chris Wickham, an analyst at Oriel Securities.
Tsogo Sun has more than 90 luxury hotels in seven African countries including Nigeria and the Seychelles. Its interests include Montecasino, Johannesburg’s Tuscany-themed hotel, theatre and casino complex.
It wholly owned the hotels business and had a half-stake in the casinos arm before it merged the two in 2002, keeping a 49 per cent share of the enlarged entity.
Tsogo Sun was then merged with casino and theme park operator Gold Reef in a 2010 reverse takeover, setting off speculation that SABMiller would seek to offload its residual 39.6 per cent stake.
News of the potential sale came as SABMiller on Tuesday updated the market on fourth-quarter trading, which the brewer said had been hit by problems in Africa – a continent that makes up 11 per cent of revenues.
The company flagged political tensions in Mozambique; a 50 per cent increase in excise duty in Zambia and a near-doubling of rainfall in Tanzania – a country replete with outdoor bars and restaurants – as fourth-quarter net producer revenues rose 2 per cent. This was lower than expected, according to analysts.
Nigeria – which last week overtook South Africa as the continent’s largest economy – and Ghana delivered double-digit volume growth, but weak consumer spending in Europe and the US continued to hold back developed markets.
Overall, net producer revenues – SABMiller’s favoured constant currency measure – rose 3 per cent in the full year, which analysts at Oriel said was “slightly beneath consensus”. SABMiller said the depreciation of several currencies against the US dollar would adversely impact results.
SABMiller shares were down 1.3 per cent at £30.84 on Tuesday and have fallen almost 10 per cent in a year. Shares in Tsogo Sun were broadly flat in Johannesburg, trading down 0.2 per cent at R2,535.