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Botswana retailer Choppies resumes trading on South Africa exchange

Shares in Botswana's budget supermarket chain Choppies resumed trading on South Africa's Johannesburg stock exchange (JSE) on Friday, after a failure to publish its financial results led to a 24-month suspension.

GABORONE, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Shares in Botswana's budget supermarket chain Choppies CHOPP.BT resumed trading on South Africa's Johannesburg stock exchange (JSE) on Friday, after a failure to publish its financial results led to a 24-month suspension.

Choppies shares plunged by more than 60% in September 2018 after it said it would delay publication of its financial statement, and were then suspended from both the Botswana Stock Exchange and the JSE, where it has a secondary listing.

The results were delayed after the company's newly appointed external auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) raised concerns with the board in respect of accounting practices for the year ended June 30, 2018 and prior years.

"Following extensive engagement, the JSE has agreed to lift the suspension of the company's shares and to recommence trading on the JSE from today, 13 November 2020," the company said in a statement.

The Botswana bourse lifted its suspension in July after the company published all its financials up to December 2019, bringing it into compliance with the stock exchange's requirements.

According to papers lodged in Gaborone's high court in August and seen by Reuters, the retailer's two biggest shareholders, CEO Ramachandran Ottapathu and executive director Ismail Farouk, sued PwC for 450 million pula ($40.14 million), saying that their former auditor's failure to sign off the 2018 financial statement caused the share price crash.

PwC has confirmed to Reuters that it was involved in legal proceedings with two Choppies' directors and was defending the action, but said it would not be appropriate to publicly comment further on the matter.

As part of plans to consolidate its business, Choppies - Botswana's biggest retailer - has since exited the South African and Mozambican markets.

The company is also divesting its operations in Tanzania and Kenya, Ottapathu told Reuters in July, but will continue operating in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia.

($1 = 11.2108 pulas)

(Reporting by Brian Benza; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

((nqobile.dludla@thomsonreuters.com; +27103461066;))

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