Steinhoff restructure: No guarantee Wiese will get Pepkor back

Christo Wiese told Fin24 that the lawsuit is an effort to recover money, and not necessarily to regain control of Pepkor. (David Harrison/M&G)

Christo Wiese told Fin24 that the lawsuit is an effort to recover money, and not necessarily to regain control of Pepkor. (David Harrison/M&G)

A possible restructuring of retailer Steinhoff [JSE: SNH] would not necessarily guarantee that Christo Wiese could pry his retail chain Pepkor back from under the Steinhoff umbrella.

Wiese spoke to Fin24 by phone on Friday, a day after his Titan Group of companies announced they were suing Steinhoff for R59-billion.

Titan has instituted two claims against Steinhoff for agreements made in 2015 and 2016. The first relates to the acquisition of Wiese’s Pepkor Limited by Steinhoff in 2015.

The second relates to over R24-billion in capital the Titan Group injected into Steinhoff in 2016, so that the retailer could meet its debt obligations at the time of its acquisition of Mattress Firm in the US.
Steinhoff has said it is assessing the claims.

Wiese told Fin24 that the lawsuit is an effort to recover money, and not necessarily to regain control of Pepkor.

He could not say what the restructuring of Steinhoff should look like. He stepped down as the global conglomerate’s chair in mid-December 2017, just more than a week after the group’s former CEO Markus Jooste abruptly resigned.

“We consider it to be in the best interests of all stakeholders; shareholders, creditors, claimants, that the company is restructured. It (Steinhoff) has a lot going for it. If it is properly sensibly restructured the company should be able to deliver value,” he said.

He would also not speculate whether Steinhoff would be able to pay him back the R59bn he is claiming. Steinhoff’s share value has dropped more than 95% since an accounting scandal was revealed by its auditors in December 2017.

On Thursday, following news that Wiese intended to sue Steinhoff, the company’s share price took a beating falling by more than 13% to trade at R1.92 at market close. This is the first time the group’s shares have traded below R2.00.

“I can’t forecast that, there are a lot of other claimants as well. Some who have written to the company as a matter of public record, placing their claims on the table. So it is very difficult to forecast what is going to happen.”

Wiese said that he chose not to join one of various class action suits against Steinhoff, as his case is unique. “I believe my case is different and there is no point in me joining a class action.” — Fin 24

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