JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings will not pay dividends from its Australian businesses for two years in order to reduce debt levels there, its chief executive said on Thursday after the retailer reported a 2.9 percent drop in half-year earnings.
The Australian businesses, which comprise David Jones and Country Road Group, have debt of just over 400 million Australian dollars ($284 million) and Woolworths wants to bring that down to about 200 million, Moir said.
Woolworths paid a big premium to bulk up in Australia via David Jones as part of Moir’s ambitions to turn the firm into a leading southern hemisphere retailer, but has faced delays in redeveloping the business.
In 2018 the firm booked an impairment charge of 6.9 billion rand ($492 million) against the value of David Jones as a result of the cyclical downturn and structural changes that have hurt performance across the Australian retail sector.
Woolworths said headline earnings per share (HEPS) fell to 200.4 cents in the 26 weeks ended Dec. 23, from 206.3 cents a year earlier. HEPS is the most widely watched profit gauge in South Africa and strips out certain one-off items.