Steinhoff surges on signs it can settle R192 billion in claims

Steinhoff International Holdings rose the most in almost three months after the retailer confirmed it’s working on ways to settle 10 billion euros (R192 billion) of legal claims following an accounting scandal that almost destroyed the company.

The stock climbed as much as 26% in Frankfurt on Monday, its biggest increase since mid-April, before paring the advance to trade 10% higher as of 1:51 p.m. local time. The gains extended a smaller rise late Friday after Bloomberg News reported the group is close to a breakthrough.

Steinhoff continues to assess its options for a global settlement, the owner of Conforama in France and Pep stores across Europe said in a statement. That includes the total value and the terms of any deal, it said. The lawsuits come from those who lost out from the sudden collapse in Steinhoff’s stock in late 2017, including ex-Chairman Christo Wiese, who is suing for R59 billion.

The company can’t pay the full 10 billion euros of legal claims in cash and may have to use its South African assets to help reach a deal, Chief Financial Officer Theodore de Klerk said last week. Steinhoff owns 68% of Pepkor Holdings, Africa’s largest clothing retailer.

"Pepkor is one of the assets that has value," Evan Walker, money manager at 36ONE Asset Management in Johannesburg, said by phone. "There is some risk for Pepkor in this, depending who gets the stock. But the shares have also suffered some overhang with investors knowing Steinhoff may need to sell its stake, so to get that out the way could help."

Pepkor, which raised R1.9 billion in a share sale last month to reduce debt and shore up its balance sheet, traded 0.4% lower in Johannesburg.

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