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Steinhoff shares plunge 66% as CEO quits amid accounting scandal

07 December 2017
Steinhoff shares plunge 66% as CEO quits amid accounting scandal

The company said it will "update the market as the aforesaid investigation proceeds", adding that financial statements for prior years may have to be restated.

Steinhoff bought the Willenhall-based chain of discount stores for £610 million past year.

Steinhoff's chairman, retail tycoon Christo Wiese, alongside former Pepkor CEO Pieter Erasmus, will run Steinhoff until a new CEO is appointed, a statement issued at 10.45pm on Tuesday night said.

Steinhoff's African businesses include a range of credit-based household goods retailers and the company also has extensive interests in Europe.

The company's Supervisory Board, in consultation with the statutory auditors of the Company, has approached PWC to perform an independent investigation on the matter, while Markus Jooste, CEO of Steinhoff, has resigned from the company.

The JSE's director of issuer regulation John Burke told Reuters the bourse was in talks with Steinhoff to get answers on the investigation of possible accounting irregularities.

As recently as November 3, Wiese bought 2 million Steinhoff shares at more than three times the price at which they were trading in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Omri Thomas of Abax Investments, the 15th largest investor in Steinhoff, said because there was no immediate prospect of any clarity on its results, it was hard to put a value on Steinhoff and this had prompted the severe share reaction. Wiese had a net worth of $4.3bn as of Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Steinhoff nearly merged with Shoprite earlier this year which would have formed Africa's largest retailer but the plans were scrapped in February.

The retailer has indefinitely delayed the release of financial results, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, citing a criminal and tax investigation in Germany. The company has transformed itself in the past four years from a mostly African-focused retailer to an acquisitive powerhouse that now owns Mattress Firm in the United States and Poundland in the UK.

Shares were also down by 66 per cent on the German stock exchange.