Choppies eyes 50 stores expansion

Chamwe Kaira

The Botswana-headquartered supermarket chain, Choppies Group is planning to have up to 50 stores in Namibia in the next five years, the Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Ramachandran Ottapathu revealed.

“Our long-term objective for the next five years is to have 45 to 50 stores in Namibia. We are looking at smaller format stores and believe this will enable us to penetrate smaller areas with better financial results due to lower expense base,” Ottapathu told Observer Money.

Choppies currently own 12 stores in Namibia. The company employs 650 workers in Namibia.

Choppies in Namibia mostly operates in the Northern and Northeast regions. Ottapathu said the northern area is the highest populated area, but said as a group, Choppies is looking at all areas in Namibia.

Choppies is listed on the stock exchanges in Botswana and South Africa but Ottapathu said the company does not plan to list in Namibia.

Namibia’s contribution to overall Choppies revenue is less than 10 percent, Ottapathu said.

“The retail sector in Namibia is performing very well, entering the second year after Covid -19, we are showing double-digit growth. Inflation also played a big part in the value growth with the war in Ukraine. However, volume is also up. Tourism in Namibia is at an all-time high also contributing favorably,” said Ottapathu.

The Namibia Statistics Agency said in the 2022 National Accounts that the wholesale and retail trade posted a growth of 6.0 percent in 2022 compared to a 6.4 percent increase in the preceding year.

Ottapathu believes that the Namibian market can also grow rapidly like in Zambia because there is a lot of opportunity for growth due to people needing to still travel large distances to buy groceries.

Choppies initially sold only food-based and other fast-moving consumer goods. The group owns a centralized, in-house distribution network in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya.

Choppies became a listed company on the Botswana Stock Exchange on January 26, 2012, and is a constituent of the BSE Domestic Company Index.

The company also completed its secondary listing on the Johannesburg stock exchange on May 27, 2015.

Talking about promoting Namibian products, Ottapathu said Choppies is well known in the market to support local fresh produce farmers. “Local manufacturers are also supported well and stocked in our stores,” he explained.

“Future rumors of oil and green hydrogen are doing the rounds and if this is accurate the entire country will boom,” said Ottapathu.

In Botswana, Choppies is involved in a dragged-out high court case against PricewaterhouseCoopers Botswana (PwC) and its audit partner Rudi Binedell.

The two largest shareholders in Choppies, Ottapathu and partner Farouk Ismail are claiming R610 million from PwC and Binedell.

Ottapathu and Ismail wants PwC to be made liable for losses the directors faced when Choppies was suspended from the JSE and Botswana stock exchanges for not publishing its 2018 financial statements within stipulated time frames. The two have submitted that PwC was to blame for the delay. The suspension caused shares in Choppies to tumble and thus eroded their own value in Choppies as shareholders.

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