Picture: BLOOMBERG
Picture: BLOOMBERG

Steinhoff International expects more doom and gloom to follow the release of its long-awaited 2017 earnings in which the retailer saw the value of its assets shrink amid massive losses and restatements in the wake of an accounting scandal.

The company reported a net loss of €4.03bn in the 12 months to end-September 2017, compared with a loss of €279m in the previous 15-month period, Steinhoff said on Tuesday. Sales rose to €18.8bn from €16.1bn, boosted by the purchase of US bedding chain Mattress Firm and Poundland in the UK.

The release of the 2017 annual report comes after Deloitte refused to sign off the accounts in December of that year, a move that threw the company into crisis and led to the resignation of then-CEO Markus Jooste. Auditors at PwC then started a 15-month forensic probe, which found a small group of former executives — with the help of outsiders — allegedly structured deals that inflated profits and asset values.

Sales in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years are expected to drop because of asset disposals, more competition and a weak trading environment, Steinhoff said. Operating expenses will be “substantially” higher and financing costs will increase, the firm said, adding that it is working on lowering administrative costs, while spending less to bolster cash flows.

Legal claims

Those seeking compensation may now have a better picture of the embattled global retailer’s assets as they prepare legal claims. In April, Steinhoff called for potential claimants to come forward, seemingly opening the door for negotiated settlements with those who lost money.

But the pool is shrinking, with total assets marked down to €17.5bn in fiscal 2017, compared with a restated €21bn in 2016, the report showed. That compares with claims highlighted in the annual report amounting to €6.2bn, more than half of which is from former chair Christo Wiese. In addition, various class-action suits are planned.

The claims have not been provided for as the company is still in the process of “assessing the quantum and validity of all claims received to date”, Steinhoff said.

Steinhoff shares were up 4.4% by the close in Frankfurt on Tuesday. The stock is down 96% since the announcement of the accounting irregularities.

Bloomberg