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Steinhoff to sell $25m Gulfstream jet as funds ebb

Jan 05 2018 19:51
Renee Bonorchis, Bloomberg

Johannesburg - Steinhoff International Holdings, the South African retailer laid low by an accounting scandal, is selling one of its more high-flying assets as it seeks liquidity to keep itself alive.

The owner of UK discounter Poundland and bedding supplier Mattress Firm in the US is in discussions with a potential buyer of a 2006 Gulfstream G550 private jet that’s shuttled executives around the world, according to a person familiar with the situation. The luxuriously appointed craft previously had a price tag of about $25m. 

The plane was put up for sale after the company announced on December 5 that it had uncovered accounting irregularities, the source said. The disclosure prompted a plunge in the share price of Frankfurt- and Johannesburg-listed Steinhoff, along with the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste and Chairperson an Christo Wiese.

Steinhoff on Thursday said it’s seeking “significant near-term liquidity” for some of its business units.

READ: Steinhoff unit seeks 'significant' funding as CFO steps down

Steinhoff said it took delivery of the jet in April last year. It was advertised by Global Jet, an operator of business aircraft, for $24.75m in 2016. The sale brochure shows the interior fitted out in cream-coloured leather seating, wood panelling and a marble-and-brass bathroom.

The plane, certified for 16 passengers, left Frankfurt on December 3 to fly to South Africa and was last tracked in Cape Town on December 7, according to online flight logs. 

The jet also made stops in Johannesburg, Vienna and Dublin last year. It’s registered with the US Federal Aviation Administration. Steinhoff, by email, confirmed plans to sell the jet, but declined to comment further, saying all of its corporate information is being communicated via the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s news service. 

Racehorses sold

In addition to wiping more than $13bn off the company’s stock value, the accounting scandal has taken a steep toll on the wealth and lifestyle of some of its principals. Wiese, the largest shareholder, has seen his net worth cut by more than half, to $2.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Jooste has sold some racehorses.

Steinhoff said in a December presentation that lines of credit were increasingly being withdrawn or suspended and it sold a stake in South African investment holding company PSG, raising about $345m.

The retailer on Friday said it sold the Vienna flagship store of the Leiner furniture brand to a company controlled by Austrian real estate investor Rene Benko. Neither the buyer nor the seller disclosed financial details.

The Amsterdam-registered retailer has said it will restate earnings for 2015, 2016 and 2017, with figures for prior years also “ likely” to need restating.

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