Five Things You Should Know About Steinhoff as It Bids for Argos

  • Ikea wannabe has more than 6,500 stores spanning 30 countries
  • Billionaire Christo Wiese is company's biggest shareholder

Steinhoff International Holdings NV has said it wants to challenge Ikea. Now it’s made a $2 billion bid for Britain’s Home Retail Group Plc, taking on J Sainsbury Plc for control of the Argos stores owner. Here’s five things you should know about the retailer:

* Founded by Bruno Steinhoff in Germany in 1964, the year that Nelson Mandela was jailed for life. Starting out selling furniture sourced from eastern Europe to wealthier western customers, the now 76-year-old entrepreneur began manufacturing his own goods in the 1970s. A subsequent acquisition spree took his company into markets including South Africa, where it was listed in 1998.

* Steinhoff’s biggest shareholder is a family trust attached to Christo Wiese, a South African billionaire who sold the company his Pepkor discount retail business for $5.7 billion. That 2014 acquisition gave it South Africa’s biggest retailer and moved the business into clothing through chains such as Pep and Ackermans.

* The sprawling company employs 90,000 people and has more than 6,500 retail outlets in 30 countries from the U.K. to Australia. With brands including Conforama and Bensons for Beds, Steinhoff gets more than half its 135 billion rand ($8.8 billion) of sales from operations in the U.K., France and Germany.

* In December, Steinhoff moved its primary listing to Frankfurt from Johannesburg, increasing its exposure to investors on the continent. The company also switched its headquarters to Amsterdam from Johannesburg.

* Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste lives in Stellenbosch, a town nestled among some of South Africa’s best known wine farms, and is an avid racehorse owner. The 55-year-old has been a member of the board since 1998, becoming group managing director in 2000.

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