Steinhoff tanks 57% as CEO leaves amid accounting probe

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Steinhoff bought the Willenhall-based chain of discount stores for £610 million previous year.

The company also dropped a January 31, 2018 deadline for publishing its audited 2017 consolidated financial statements, saying it would only do so "when it is in a position to do so".

The Steinhoff supervisory board appointed its chairperson Dr Christo Wiese executive chairperson, or delegated supervisory chairperson, on an interim basis.

It would publish the audited 2017 consolidated financial statements when it was in a position to do so and would further determine whether any prior years' financial statements would need to be restated.

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Jooste, who had been with Steinhoff since 1988 and was CEO of Steinhoff International since 2000, was credited with growing the South African furniture manufacturer and retailer into Europe's second-largest player, behind Ikea, via a string of acquisitions including France's Conforama chain. It has also advised its shareholders and other investors to "exercise caution when dealing in the securities of the group", but a panicked sell-off has already caused the business's market cap to more than halve.

Shares in Steinhoff International fell by about 60 per cent after the news was announced.

As well as furniture and homeware, it also sells products including clothing, footwear and consumer goods.

Late on Tuesday, Steinhoff announced that it had approached professional services multinational PwC to carry out an independent investigation of the irregularities.

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Steinhoff previously rebuffed claims made in a report by German magazine, Manager-Magazin, of its former CEO, Markus Joost being amongst employees investigated by German prosecutors in a 2015 accounting fraud case.

Kepler Cheuvreux said the pending tax and accounting investigations "could show severe irregularities".

It is unclear what accounting irregularities the company was referring to in its statement on Tuesday.

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