Uchumi Supermarkets on Wednesday closed its stores in Nairobi for restocking ahead of the high shopping Christmas season, signalling a near breakthrough in protracted talks with a potential strategic investor.
The troubled retailer, at the same time, pushed back its annual general meeting (AGM) earlier scheduled for December 20, to a date likely to be before March 31 to allow for the conclusion of the negotiations that are expected to result in an injection of fresh cash.
“The management wishes to inform the public that Uchumi Nairobi branches will remain closed on December 13 (yesterday) for restocking our shelves,” the company said in a public notice.
“All Uchumi staff will look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores as we re-open for business on December 14 (today).”
The company further invited the media to witness the turnaround today: “We are, therefore, pleased to announce the restocking of our branches and invite you to witness the start of our turnaround. This will take place tomorrow, December 14 (today) at 11am at Uchumi Capital Centre on Mombasa Road. Customers should expect a wide array of grocery and liquor products as well as household items and fantastic bakery.”
Chief operating officer Andrew Dixon confirmed on Twitter re-filling of Uchumi shelves, which have largely been empty for more than two years, would start this week.
The former Tesco chief said when he joined early November, a month after quitting his chief marketing officer role at equally struggling Nakumatt, restocking was his priority at Uchumi.
Uchumi has been scouting for a new strategic investor since December 2015 when it first announced it needed Sh5 billion fresh capital in exchange for equity, convertible debt or a combination of both.
That failed to yield fruit until August when the company said there was a ray of hope with an imminent deal for at least Sh3.5 billion cash injection. A section of the media stated last week that the company had received Sh700 million from the Treasury.
The need for shareholders’ nod appears to be a primary reason for pushing back the AGM in what could save Uchumi additional costs for holding an extraordinary general meeting to endorse the deal.
“Once the negotiations are concluded, a new date for the annual general meeting will be agreed and a formal notice and agenda will be published within the statutory notice period,” company secretary Enid Muriuki said in a statement.