Steinhoff said to gauge interest in European retailer Pepco

Steinhoff is gauging takeover interest in businesses including clothing chain Pepco as the scandal-hit retailer prepares for the next phase of a recovery plan, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The company has informally sounded out potential buyers for Pepco including private equity firms, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the plans aren’t public.

The profitable chain, with more than 1 300 stores in Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania, has emerged as one of the jewels in Steinhoff’s crown as the retailer battles to survive an accounting scandal.

Formal auction

A formal auction of Pepco could come if or when Steinhoff agrees to a 9.4 billion-euro debt-restructuring deal with bondholders and other lenders, seen by the company as a crucial step toward avoiding insolvency. The retailer is negotiating a two-year payment delay, people familiar with the matter said last week, and the company said on Friday it has enough backing to extend the talks through July 20.

Steinhoff declined to comment.

Steinhoff shares have lost more than 95% of their value since the company reported accounting irregularities in December. While the retailer is only mid-way through a year-long investigation into its finances, the stock bounced this week following the release of unaudited half-year earnings and a partial restatement of discredited figures late Friday.

While private-equity firms await a formal sale process, Steinhoff Africa Retail, which was spun off by Steinhoff before the scandal erupted, has made an expression of interest for both Pepco and UK discounter Poundland, the people said. The approach was rejected, though STAR, as the retailer is known, remains interested. Steinhoff owns about 71% of STAR, whose finances have been broadly untainted by the scandal.

A spokeswoman for STAR didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

"The future shape of the group should start to become clearer, although there is likely to be tension because the most saleable parts of the group are those that would be most attractive as part of a future Steinhoff," Charles Allen, a retail analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said in a note on June 21.

Expansion drive

Pepco’s revenue jumped 40% in the half year through March, according to the unaudited financials published last week. The company is also on an expansion drive, and is targeting 1,500 outlets by the end of September.

Poundland, which has 871 outlets selling a range of household items, bucked a tough UK trading environment to post half-year like-for-like sales growth of 2.4%.

Steinhoff bought Pepkor Holdings, which included what was to become Pepco, and Poundland as part of an acquisition spree starting 2015. Pepco and Poundland are now grouped together by Steinhoff as Pepkor Europe, which reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation growth of 28 percent in the six months through March.

Most of Pepkor, the pan-African clothing retailer Pep, is now part of STAR, which is in the process of changing its name to Pepkor to distance itself from its parent.

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE UPDATE: Get Fin24's top morning business news and opinions in your inbox.

ZAR/USD
17.27
(-1.45)
ZAR/GBP
22.50
(-0.92)
ZAR/EUR
20.25
(-0.99)
ZAR/AUD
12.27
(-0.92)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-1.16)
Gold
1970.99
(-0.50)
Silver
24.27
(-0.50)
Platinum
911.00
(+1.05)
Brent Crude
43.61
(0.00)
Palladium
2113.00
(+2.20)
All Share
56160.86
(+0.79)
Top 40
51878.81
(+0.99)
Financial 15
9936.75
(-2.16)
Industrial 25
75379.62
(+1.17)
Resource 10
56564.64
(+1.81)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Do you think it was a good idea for the government to approach the IMF for a $4.3 billion loan to fight Covid-19?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes. We need the money.
11% - 801 votes
It depends on how the funds are used.
74% - 5309 votes
No. We should have gotten the loan elsewhere.
15% - 1055 votes
Vote