SOUTH AFRICA – Investment company Brait said on Wednesday its subsidiary, Premier Foods, was looking to make more acquisitions in Southern Africa to build more scale.

Premier Foods, whose brands include Blue Ribbon bread, Snowflake wheat, Iwisa maize and cotton-wool brand Dove, has been active on the acquisition front.

In June, Premier bought Ngwane Mills in Swaziland and in November last year it acquired Star Bakeries and Lil-lets.

“Premier is looking at interesting companies but until the deal is done, we can’t really talk about it,” CEO John Gnodde said on Wednesday following the release of the company’s interim results for the six months ended September.

He said that, depending on the size of the deal, Brait would assist in funding the transaction. Brait has previously said it is looking to increase its stake in Premier from 85% to more than 90% in the next two to three years.

Mr Gnodde said that its biggest investment company, Pepkor, was also looking for acquisitions, both in Europe and Africa.

On September 19, Brait issued an announcement advising shareholders to use caution when dealing in its shares as it was in negotiations which, if successful, could have a material effect on its share price.

Brait has a war chest of R2.8bn in cash and other facilities earmarked for new investments.

“We are continuously looking for new deals. We will be opportunistic in our approach,” Mr Gnodde said.

Asked if the company did not have a lazy war chest, Mr Gnodde said that out of the R2.8bn, Brait’s cash was less than 3% of the company’s assets. He said the cash equivalents were within the company’s benchmark maximum of 25% of net asset value.

In the six months to end-September, Brait showed cash of R622m. In its interim results on Wednesday, Brait’s value of investments grew to 24% — R18.4bn in the six months to end-September compared with R14.8bn.

Commenting on the results, an analyst said: “It was in line with expectations. The kind of disappointment was the performance of Iceland Foods. Premier did well. But Pep is starting too slow.”

Pepkor grew its net asset value to R11.5bn, an increase of 13.7% compared to the previous period.

Premium Foods’ net asset value grew more than 100%, to R3.8bn from R1.8bn in the previous corresponding period. Iceland Foods saw its net asset value fall 24% to R1.4bn.

October 25, 2014;