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Unions to demand disclosure of Steinhoff info at Stellenbosch HQ

Jan 18 2018 16:12
Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town – The Public Servants Association (PSA) and the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) plan to go to Steinhoff’s head office in Stellenbosch on Friday to demand a full disclosure of financial and administrative information from the company.

On Thursday the bodies each issued statements indicating their plan to visit Steinhoff’s [JSE:SNH] head office with the intention of conducting a “full inspection” in terms of the Companies Act.

Steinhoff has refused to grant full access to documents, and this is being viewed by the PSA as the retailer’s attempt to hide actual facts surrounding the business dealings which resulted in a dramatic share price collapse.

The PSA had written to Steinhoff on December 20, informing that a PSA delegation, along with Fedusa general secretary Dennis George, would visit the head office on January 19 to conduct the inspection.

“The PSA requires full disclosure of financial and administrative information in support of planned civil and criminal charges the PSA intends to launch against the company’s directors and prescribed officials,” the union explained, as its members' pension investments were "severely affected" by the matter. 

However, Steinhoff’s attorneys on January 12 informed the PSA that the company will only make partial information available for inspection as the union is not a shareholder in the company. This information would only be available on January 22, according to the PSA.

Right to information 

PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks said that these conditions strengthened the union’s resolve to go to the head office. “Should access be denied, the PSA will be forced to approach the Western Cape High Court to force Steinhoff’s compliance with the Act,” he explained.

George explained that in terms of the Companies Act any person who holds or has a beneficial interest in any securities issued by Steinhoff has a right to inspect and copy the information contained in the records of the company. This includes any other information to the extent granted by the Memorandum of Incorporation.

“It is an offence for Steinhoff to fail to accommodate any reasonable request for access, or to unreasonably refuse access to any record that a person has a right to inspect or copy in terms of Section 20 of the Companies Act."

In December 2017, CEO Markus Jooste stepped down after Steinhoff announced that there would be an investigation over accounting irregularities in the retailer’s financials.

Chairperson Christo Wiese also stepped down, as did chief financial officer Ben le Grange. It has since come to light that the financials dating as far back as 2015 can no longer be relied upon.

The news saw Steinhoff’s share price plummet. The company has lost more than 85% of its share value.

On Thursday the share price, which opened at R6.71, was trading at R6.50 by 14:00.

Fedusa met with the Public Investment Corporation in December to discuss the impact of the loss in Steinhoff’s share price on government employee pensions and to safeguard it against similar events in future.

Following the meeting, Fedusa assured its members that government employee pensions are protected.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba held a briefing in December after meeting with the CEO Initiative, leaders of the JSE and the manufacturing sector, as well as the head of the Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors (IRBA) and executives of the Black Business Council to discuss the matter.

He gave the assurance that SA Inc would embark on a number of initiatives to protect pensioners and South Africa's financial markets following the Steinhoff fallout.

“Government takes the developments regarding Steinhoff extremely seriously. They have had a major impact on financial markets and savings and investments of ordinary South Africans,” he said.

IRBA, the South African Revenue Service and the Financial Services Board would establish a regulatory task team to deal with the matter decisively, he previously said. 

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