Steinhoff shares plunge 60% as CEO Markus Jooste quits

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The dramatic sell-off was triggered by the announcement that chief executive Markus Jooste had resigned and "accounting irregularities requiring further investigation" had been uncovered.

"The company will publish the audited 2017 consolidated financial statements when it is in a position to do so".

Steinhoff said Wiese would "embark on a detailed review of all aspects of the company's business with a view to maximising shareholder value", but its South African shares had slumped 61 percent to close at 15.87 rand, after hitting an eight-year low of 13.50 rand in earlier trading. Steinhoff said at the time it was "fully committed" to support the probe.

The owner Poundland, Bensons for Beds and Conforama said its largest shareholder and chairman Christo Wiese will take over in an executive capacity on an interim basis. According to the news agency Reuters, investors are now concerned that Wiese may be forced to sell shares he bought past year with borrowed money, which would depress Steinhoff's stock further.

The group's share price has fallen 18.2% from Friday's closing price of R55.81 to R45.65 on Tuesday after warning shareholders on Monday its results would not be signed by its current auditors. Reuters reported last month that Steinhoff did not tell investors about nearly $1 billion in transactions with a related company, despite laws that some experts say require it to do so.

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Overnight Tuesday, the South African head office said in a statement that it had approached auditing firm PwC to carry out an independent investigation. The company has said that move related to whether revenues were booked properly, and whether taxable profit was correctly declared.

It is not clear if these are the accounting irregularities Steinhoff is referring to in its latest statement. A spokesman declined further comment.

Steinhoff is a sprawling corporation which operates approximately 12,000 retail outlets across 30 countries.

Jürgen Kolb, an analyst with Kepler Cheuvreux said in a note recently that Steinhoff's tax rate was "very unusual" and that any risk to the rate in future could hit the company's cashflow.

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