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South Africa’s Pick n Pay warns of 50% earnings drop

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 4 – South African supermarket chain Pick n Pay flagged a more than 50% fall in first-half earnings on Tuesday, weighed down by constraints on alcohol, tobacco and clothing sales during the lockdown, and by voluntary severance payments.

President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a nationwide lockdown from the end of March to curb the spread of coronavirus, banning retailers from selling non-essential items.

These account for about 20% of Pick n Pay’s group revenue, with higher gross profit margins relative to basic food and grocery lines.

Pick n Pay, which also owns discount supermarket brand Boxer, was also prohibited from selling general merchandise and hot foods.

Restrictions were lifted mid-May and subsequently from June 1, but tobacco sales have been prohibited throughout, and the ban on alcohol sales was reinstated last month.

The retailer said headline earnings per share (HEPS) for the 26 weeks to Aug. 30 would be down more than 42.52 cents from 85.03 cents reported in the previous year.

Shares in the company were down 5% at 0737 GMT.

It also blamed COVID-19-related costs for the decline in HEPS, the main profit measure in South Africa that strips out certain items.

The group launched a voluntary severance programme in March, through which it said more than 1,400 employees have left the business. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey)

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