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Stocks close higher, Woolworths flags strong sales

Woolworths shares up 4.2%

South African shares rose on Wednesday, partly anchored by a 4% rise in retailer Woolworths after it flagged higher sales.

Woolworths said sales probably surged 55% in the year through June, citing a boost from the first-time contribution from David Jones, the Australian department store chain it acquired in August last year.

Its shares ended up 4.2% at R98.80, rebounding after falling nearly 3% shortly after announcing that 20 million shares would become available for sale to qualifying institutional investors.

Advtech, South Africa’s second-biggest private education firm, closed up 2.6% at R11.49, paring some gains after jumping 5% after the company confirmed it had received a takeover offer from larger rival Curro Holdings. Curro also confirmed the negotiations.

Curro recouped earlier losses after the announcement to inch up 0.6% to R34.20.

“Curro is aggressive by nature and it makes sense if they are taking out the competition. So we’ll see when the approval comes through and at what price,” said Bernhard Grobler, head of stockbroking at Investec.

Bullion producer Harmony Gold gained 1.96% to R14.59, after it said it had reached an agreement with unions designed to help turn around its loss-making Doornkop mine, scaling back the level of planned job cuts.

The Top 40 Index and the All Share Index both closed 0.8% higher at 46,942.19 points and 52,531.13 points respectively.

On the downside, Sibanye Gold fell 2.99 to R19.79, as its negotiations with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) continue, with the union set to resume pay talks and challenge membership numbers.

Shares in Africa’s biggest grocer Shoprite Holdings fell 1.8% to R169. The company announced that its sales rose 11.2% in the year through June, lagging a 13% forecast by Thomson Reuters StarMine SmartEstimates.

Turnover on the stock exchange was more active with almost 205 million shares changing hands compared to last year’s daily average of 183 million.

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