Steinhoff wants to take bid to postpone liquidation case to Constitutional Court

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Steinhoff says it wants to approach the Constitutional Court as it seeks to postpone a liquidation hearing.
Steinhoff says it wants to approach the Constitutional Court as it seeks to postpone a liquidation hearing.
Alon Skuy/Gallo Images
  • Lawyers for Steinhoff say the retailer will approach the Constitutional Court as it seeks to postpone a liquidation hearing. 
  • The winding-up application was brought by the former owners of shoe retailer Tekkie Town, who say Steinhoff's former CEO Markus Jooste 'duped" them into selling their business.
  • While the liquidation hearing started this week in the Western Cape High Court, Steinhoff wants it postponed so it can lodge an appeal.

Retailer Steinhoff has said it would take its fight to postpone the liquidation hearing it is facing to the Constitutional Court.

Steinhoff wants the liquidation bid to be put on hold so that it can argue for leave to appeal an earlier ruling that found the Western Cape High Court has jurisdiction to hear the case. 

In its view, as an "external company" under SA law, it cannot be wound up by a local court. But this objection was dismissed by Western Cape High Court Judge Hayley Slingers earlier in the month. Her ruling meant the liquidation case could proceed.

The winding-up application was brought by the former owners of shoe retailer Tekkie Town, who argue they were "duped" by Steinhoff's former CEO Markus Jooste into swapping valuable shares in the footwear chain for stock in Steinhoff.

While Steinhoff is seeking to approach the Constitutional Court, the former owners of Tekkie Town have promised to oppose a separate court hearing to sanction Steinhoff's global settlement proposal. 

As Fin24 reported earlier in the week, Steinhoff has applied to the Western Cape High Court to approve its R25 billion settlement proposal, with its CEO Louis du Preez saying it is "time for this saga to be brought to an end". The group has said it may need to be liquidated if the settlement proposal falls through. 

The hearing to sanction voting by claimants, which took place last week, has been set down for 30 September. A separate hearing will also take place in Amsterdam. Only if both courts sanction the proceedings will be settlement be made binding. 

'No settlement - liquidation first' 

But former Tekkie Town CEO Bernard Mostert says that as Steinhoff is insolvent, it should be wound up and its assets preserved. 

In addition, he says the liquidation court case should first be finalised before a court rules on the settlement.

"To have the [settlement proposal] sanctioned before the winding-up application of Steinhoff has been decided, would be premature and a waste of the court's time," he said. 

While the ruling by Slingers last week that a South African court has jurisdiction to hear the liquidation case meant it could proceed, little headway was made this week. Slingers was confined to hearing to a slew of postponement and intervention applications. 

According to advocate Willie Duminy, for Tekkie Town, the applications were "quite patently an attempt to derail the hearing".

This was forcefully denied by Steinhoff's counsel advocate Arnold Stubel, who said most of the applications came from third parties seeking to intervene in the proceedings, not Steinhoff itself. 

He said that Steinhoff was interested in having the issue heard as soon as possible. 

In short proceedings on Wednesday, Stubel informed the court that Steinhoff wanted to approach South Africa's apex court. He did not provide further information. 

Judge Slingers, in short remarks, noted that she didn't have a copy of the application yet. 

She also dismissed a second postponement application that she had heard on Tuesday, saying she had already ruled on the issue and there was no need for a "second bite of the cherry". 

While she turned down the postponement request, the liquidation matter has in effect been delayed due to three new intervention bids that reached the court on Tuesday. 

These will now likely only be heard sometime in October.

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