Ann Crotty Writer-at-large

Steinhoff International has been forced to defend itself against damaging European media reports for the third time in as many months. On Wednesday, the share price slumped more than 4% to close at R59.40 after Reuters reported that — apparently contrary to European disclosure rules — it had not disclosed details of a substantial transaction with a related company. The allegations relate to a $810m loan Steinhoff made to Swiss-based company GT Brand Holding in 2015, shortly after it acquired a 45% stake in the company. Reuters quoted a European-based professor of international banking law and finance who said the loan was potentially market-sensitive information and should have been flagged. However, a second academic told Reuters that the relevant accounting rules were not clear-cut. "The rules don’t say exactly what size transactions need to be disclosed, so there is some judgment involved." The law describes a material transaction as one big enough to influence investors’ view of...

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