SA Steinhoff unit mulls early redemption of bonds

Johannesburg - Steinhoff International Holdings NV [JSE:SNH] said one of its South African units is considering an early redemption of all notes in issue as the global retailer struggles to stay afloat amid an accounting scandal.

Steinhoff Services' redemption of securities issued under a R15bn ($1.2bn) bond program will require pricing supplements to be amended and restated, the Frankfurt- and Johannesburg-listed company said in a statement after the market closed on Thursday.

The necessary approvals will have to be obtained, Steinhoff said, without giving more detail.

The parent company’s woes began on December 5 when it said it had uncovered accounting irregularities and that Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste was resigning. Thereafter its bond yields spiked and its share price lost most of its value, banks started to withdraw lines of credit and regulators from South Africa to Europe began to investigate.

Among other measures to shore up finances, Steinhoff is selling its Gulfstream 550 jet, while Jooste has been auctioning his racehorses.
With Steinhoff also having issued debt internationally, the European Central Bank said earlier this week it had disposed of the company’s securities after they were downgraded to junk.

Pending lawsuits

Steinhoff Services, the vehicle the retailer uses to sell listed bonds on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, has 12 notes in issue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Those securities amount to a total of R7.6bn in debt. More than half of those sales took place last year with Steinhoff Services having sold R4.83bn of bonds in 2017.

It has three notes valued at a total of R1.4bn maturing in 2018.

A group of South Africa-registered Steinhoff shareholders have asked to participate in a class-action lawsuit being brought against the company by the Dutch Investors Association, Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper reported on Friday, citing Armand Kersten, head of European relations at the Dutch group.

The lawsuit is one of at least two others filed by investors angry over their losses, including one filed in Frankfurt in December. Innsworth Litigation Funding, a London-based unit of Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corporation, has begun building a case against Steinhoff and is seeking shareholder clients willing to sue, it said last month.

Deminor Recovery Services, a Brussels-based shareholder advisory group, has also invited institutional shareholders to register for a potential case.

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