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Investors aim to sue Steinhoff for R190 billion in class-action suit

Aug 10 2018 13:54
Karin Matussek, Bloomberg

Standard Chartered and Commerzbank AG are among companies targeted by investors suing Steinhoff International Holdings [JSE:SNH] to recover as much as €12bn (R190bn at current exchange rates) they claim they lost because of accounting irregularities at the retail giant.

The suit was filed in Johannesburg and seeks class-action status to cover shareholders who bought Steinhoff stock from June 26, 2013 to December 5, 2017, South African lawfirm LHL Attorneys said in an emailed statement.

Other businesses with links to Steinhoff including Absa, auditors Deloitte and Roedl & Partner were also named as co-defendants as the shareholders seek to recoup their money. Individuals targeted include former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste, ex-chairperson Christo Wiese and former CFO Ben la Grange.

Furniture retailer Steinhoff plunged more than 90% in December after it said it couldn’t release its financial results and was trying to figure out if there was a €6bn hole in the balance sheet. The company in July won support from creditors to restructure €9.4bn of debt. Auditors at PwC are investigating the accounts and aim to publish a report by the end of the year.

A spokesperson for Steinhoff said the company hasn’t received any court papers in the matter. A Commerzbank spokesman said the lender doesn’t comment on current or potential client relationships.

Standard Chartered, Wiese and lawyers for Jooste and la Grange didn’t reply to emails seeking comment. Absa bank didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Roedl & Partner declined to comment citing confidentiality rules. A Deloitte spokeswoman said the auditor hasn’t received any information on this beyond press reports and thus declined to comment.

The suit is backed by Stichting Steinhoff International Compensation Claims, a foundation under Dutch law to organise investors who seek compensation.

* This articles used an exchange rate of €1 = R15.91

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