Wiese cuts stake in retailer Steinhoff to 6%

Johannesburg – Christo Wiese, the former chair of Steinhoff International Holdings [JSE:SNH], has slashed his stake in the retailer to 6.2%, a move that may mean one of South Africa’s richest men is no longer the company’s biggest shareholder.

Wiese reduced his shares in Steinhoff, which is dealing with accounting irregularities, from 21%, according to a filing the billionaire made to the Netherlands’ Authority for the Financial Markets on Friday. The filing didn’t provide further details on the share disposal.

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages state-worker pensions in South Africa, was listed as the largest shareholder after Wiese with a 7.5% stake in Steinhoff as of January 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

At a hearing with South African lawmakers on January 31, the PIC sought a review of the company’s voting pool arrangements. The pension manager also wants regulations covering large personal shareholdings, according to Chief Executive Officer Dan Matjila.

Wiese also was at the hearing, and said news of the scandal came to him as “a bolt from the blue” and that he had no prior knowledge of any wrongdoing. Wiese, 76, has seen his net worth more than halve to $2.3bn (R27.59bn) as Steinhoff’s shares plunged.

Furniture retailer Steinhoff has been reeling since it announced on December 5 that it had uncovered accounting irregularities.

The disclosure helped to wipe about $14bn (R167.96bn) from the retailer’s market value. The company will have to restate its earnings for at least fiscal 2017, 2016 and 2015. Shares in Steinhoff crashed 80% in the two days following the announcement.

In an emailed response to questions, Steinhoff said Wiese had notified the company of his share disposal, adding that it isn’t able to comment on the reasons behind his action.

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