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It Took Five Decades to Build Steinhoff. It Cratered in Two Days

  • Investors must ‘assume the worst’ in absence of explanation
  • Banks meeting Tuesday on loan accord may hold company’s fate
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Steinhoff Bonds Tumble on Moody's Cut to Junk

It looked like Steinhoff International Holdings NV had reached escape velocity from South Africa’s deepening economic gloom: A furniture retailer emulating Ikea’s model and global ambitions, built by men with their own compelling rags-to-riches stories.

Then the debt-fueled rocket stalled and came crashing down. From her office overlooking Cape Town’s waterfront, Sygnia Investment Management Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Magda Wierzycka watched on her computer screen on Dec. 6 as Steinhoff’s shares began a two-day plunge that cut the price by 80 percent and lopped some 10 billion euros ($11.8 billion) from its market value.