Steinhoff under fire as Germans extend criminal probe, unions picket AGM

Cape Town - Trade union federation Fedusa wants to see Steinhoff appoint a new board at its Annual General Meeting on Friday, saying new directors are needed to take the embattled retailer forward. 

Meanwhile, German media reported on Friday that German authorities were expanding their investigation in the firm. As Fin24 previously reported, the public prosecutor's office of Oldenburg is investigating possible accounting irregularities and fraud at Steinhoff.

The investigation is difficult as most of the documents the authorities are investigating are in English, reported the financial site Handelsblatt. 

The Stellenbosch-headquartered retail conglomerate is holding its AGM in the Netherlands on Friday afternoon. Labour groups Fedusa, Cosas and the Public Servants Association were on Friday picketing at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, where the meeting will be  live-streamed. 

The federation's general secretary Dennis George said on Friday morning that the directors who oversaw Steinhoff over the past few years cannot be expected to extricate themselves from the accounting scandal that has caused its share price to plunge by over 95% in four months.

Once one of the largest firms on the JSE, Steinhoff risks falling out of the top 100 companies on the local bourse by valuation if its share price declines any further. Earlier in the week its share price touched a new low of R2.01 a share, half its 1998 listing price.

From our side we hope and we demand to make sure that the board will be changed. We hope the shareholders will stand up, so that we can turn this company around," he said. 

Fedusa does not have voting rights for the AGM. But it will be represented at the meeting by the Public Investment Corporation, which manages the assets of the Government Employees Pension Fund. 

At Friday's AGM, the retailer's leadership is expected to update shareholders on what actions it has taken since December regarding liquidity concerns, corporate governance, and business strategies. 

The composition of a new supervisory board will be voted on and shareholders have a role in deciding who the firm's auditors will be. 

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