Woolworths Hires CEO From Levi Strauss as Moir Steps Down

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(Bloomberg) -- Woolworths Holdings Ltd. appointed Roy Bagattini from Levi Strauss & Co. as chief executive officer to replace Ian Moir, who will step down after nine years at the helm of the South African retailer.

Bagattini, 56, will start next month, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement on Tuesday. He is the head of the Americas region of the U.S. jeans maker, where he has worked since 2013. Before that, the South African held senior roles at brewers Carlsberg A/S and SABMiller.

The shares jumped as much as 9.6% on the news, the steepest intraday climb in almost two years, and traded 8.1% higher at 52.08 rand as of 3:22 p.m. in Johannesburg.

Bagattini’s new role puts him in charge of a retailer specializing in upmarket food and clothing in its home market, where consumers are battling to overcome an economic slowdown and persistent nationwide power cuts have hurt business sentiment.

Moir, 61, led Woolworths’s expansion into Australia almost six years ago with the acquisition of the David Jones chain of department stores, but the deal turned sour and two writedowns of the business followed, most recently in August last year.

The move “likely signals a desire to leave behind Australia distractions and refocus on domestic South African operations where the food division has prospered and clothing is recovering from operational missteps,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Charles Allen said in a note to clients.

Sales at David Jones fell during the 20 weeks ended Nov. 20, the last reported trading period, partly due to the impact of an ongoing A$400 million ($276 million) refurbishment of a flagship store on Elizabeth Street in Sydney. Moir will stay on as acting CEO of David Jones after stepping down from the top job, Woolworths said.

The company’s shares have declined 5.7% in the past 12 months, valuing the business at 55 billion rand ($3.8 billion).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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