Two hedge funds based in the US and the UK pocketed at least €98.7m (about R1.5bn) from taking short positions in Steinhoff International in 2017, profiting from the collapse in the retailer’s share price in December amid news of accounting irregularities. This provides an idea of the scale of the profits enjoyed by funds that did not buy the retailer’s assurances that investigations by German authorities into accounting irregularities were not serious. Public filings in Germany, where Steinhoff has its primary listing, and the Netherlands, where it is headquartered, show controversial US hedge fund Och-Ziff Management held a small short position in Steinhoff as far back as March 2016, while the retailer still enjoyed a healthy market capitalisation of €23.7bn. An Och-Ziff employee is being prosecuted in the US for allegedly bribing officials in several African countries. The month before Och-Ziff shorted Steinhoff, Germany’s Manager Magazin publication expanded on a December 2015 s...

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