Steinhoff investors invited to join European class action suit

Shareholders of global retailer Steinhoff [JSE:SNH] are invited to register to join a "class action suit" being brought by Dutch law firm BarentsKrans in the district court in Amsterdam.

According to a statement issued by BarentKrans on Friday, investors who bought shares in Steinhoff or its predecessor entity Steinhoff International Holdings Limited (SIHL) on either the JSE or the Frankfurt Stock Exchange would qualify. The shares would have had to be bought between June 26, 2013 and December 6, 2017 or the shareholders must have held some shares on December 5 or 6, 2017.

According to BarentKrans, many of the largest institutions in SA have decided to pursue claims on behalf of their clients that suffered losses as a result of the collapse in the share price of Steinhoff in December 2017.

The institutions include Abax Investments, Allan Gray, Bateleur Capital, Coronation, Denker, Electus, Eskom, Investec Asset Management, Investec Wealth & Investment, Momentum, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Tantalum Capital, Truffle and Visio Capital.

The clients of these institutions and funds collectively represented about 20% of the total shareholding in Steinhoff at the time the company’s share price collapsed.

Martijn van Maanen, a partner at BarentsKrans, said in the statement that the decision by these institutional investors to participate in the BarentsKrans Steinhoff litigation, follows a long evaluation process.
He said the case is being fully funded by Claims Funding Europe, a litigation funding company based in Dublin, Ireland. It is co-owned by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, a class action law firm in Australia.

Fin24 reported earlier that a shareholder group got the green light to sue Steinhoff International in the Netherlands in an attempt to recover some of the billions of dollars investors lost.

In a procedural hearing last month, Netherlands-incorporated Steinhoff had argued against going ahead with the court case filed in Amsterdam by Dutch investor group VEB, saying a legal claim was first filed in Germany. The company moved its primary listing to Frankfurt from Johannesburg in 2015. Steinhoff has to reply to the allegations by November 7.

VEB says it represents about 3% of Steinhoff’s shareholders. Steinhoff has said only 0.25% of its shareholders are based in the Netherlands.

Since the accounting scandal erupted on December 5, Steinhoff has written off the value of its assets by at least $14.3bn and said restatements of its financials may have to go back to at least 2015.

In Germany, law firm TILP filed a claim against Steinhoff on behalf of an investor and is working to expand it into the German version of a class-action suit.

By early afternoon trade on Friday Steinhoff shares were trading at R2.32 per share.

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