Steinhoff CFO steps down

SteinhoffThere’s been more changes at embattled retail conglomerate Steinhoff International, with its chief financial officer (CFO) Ben la Grange stepping down to “focus on the preservation and procurement of liquidity” for the group.

In December, the retailer – which is the parent of local furniture chains including Freedom and Fantastic Furniture –  said “there is no evidence to suggest” that the company’s chief financial officer had any involvement in the accounting matters currently under investigation by German prosecutors.

Philip Dieperink will replace la Grange as acting CFO and will remain as the CFO of Steinhoff UK.

Steinhoff also will hire an external independent debt restructuring expert (a chief
restructuring officer) while Absa Bank’s Johan Geldenhuys will join the executive committee as head of treasury.

In an update on the company’s liquidity, Steinhoff said although it “has achieved some degree of stabilisation in its operating businesses, significant near-term liquidity is still required in certain of the business units.”

“The supervisory and management boards of the company remain committed to work with its lenders and other finance providers in finding solutions and to return liquidity to the group in order to stabilise the affected underlying operations and will update the market in due course,” the company said in statement.

Steinhoff said its main priorities were preserving and procuring liquidity, to stabilise the relevant underlying businesses; complete the 2017 (and restated prior years) audited consolidated financial statements as soon as possible; and finalise the independent forensic investigation into accounting irregularities as a matter of urgency.

The South African-headquartered, Frankfurt-listed retailer has warned that its accounting irregularities stretch back further than first thought, with the conglomerate forced to restate its accounts for 2015 and potentially prior years.

Steinhoff said the accounting irregularities which are the subject of an internal review and PwC investigation also affect the consolidated financial statements of Steinhoff Investment Holdings Limited by virtue of its ownership of certain European subsidiaries until 1 April 2016.

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