Billionaire Wiese Cuts Stake in Steinhoff

Updated on
  • Filing with Dutch regulator shows reduced shareholdings
  • Steinhoff shares have plunged amid accounting irregularities

Christo Wiese, the former chairman of Steinhoff International Holdings NV, has slashed his stake in the retailer to 6.2 percent, a move that may mean one of South Africa’s richest men is no longer the company’s biggest shareholder.

Wiese reduced his shares in Steinhoff, which is dealing with accounting irregularities, from 21 percent, according to a filing the billionaire made to the Netherlands’ Authority for the Financial Markets on Friday. The filing didn’t provide further details on the share disposal.

The Public Investment Corp., which manages state-worker pensions in South Africa, was listed as the largest shareholder after Wiese with a 7.5 percent stake in Steinhoff as of Jan. 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

At a hearing with South African lawmakers on Jan. 31, the PIC sought a review of the company’s voting pool arrangements. The pension manager also wants regulations covering large personal shareholdings, according to Chief Executive Officer Dan Matjila.

Wiese also was at the hearing, and said news of the scandal came to him as “a bolt from the blue” and that he had no prior knowledge of any wrongdoing. Wiese, 76, has seen his net worth more than halve to $2.3 billion as Steinhoff’s shares plunged.

Furniture retailer Steinhoff has been reeling since it announced on Dec. 5 that it had uncovered accounting irregularities. The disclosure helped to wipe about $14 billion from the retailer’s market value. The company will have to restate its earnings for at least fiscal 2017, 2016 and 2015. Shares in Steinhoff crashed 80 percent in the two days following the announcement.

Read More: South Africa’s Steinhoff Claws Back From Cliff’s Edge: QuickTake

In an emailed response to questions, Steinhoff said Wiese had notified the company of his share disposal, adding that it isn’t able to comment on the reasons behind his action.

(Updates with hearing comments in sixth paragraph.)
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