Deon Botha. File photo: FINANCIAL MAIL/ROBERT TSHABALALA
Deon Botha. File photo: FINANCIAL MAIL/ROBERT TSHABALALA

Steinhoff shareholders’ patience was tested once again at an almost five-hour-long annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday.

Deon Botha, head of corporate affairs at the Public Investment Corporation, expressed shareholders’ frustrations: "We’re worried the process seems to be taking so long and are concerned that the audited statements for financial 2017 will only be available at the end of the year after PwC has completed its investigation," he said after the meeting had wrapped up.

Other shareholders were less restrained and after the meeting voiced outrage at what had taken place at the company over a seemingly protracted period.

Shareholders approved all of the resolutions put to the meeting but the re-appointment of two of the supervisory board members came close to missing the necessary 50% vote.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Armand Kersten, head of European Relations at VEB

Steve Booysen, who has been on the Steinhoff board for a number of years, secured just over 56% support from shareholders, while Angela Steinhoff managed to get only a 59% backing.

The re-appointment of Deloitte’s as the firm’s auditors was passed by 73% of shareholders but Armand Kersten, head of European Relations at VEB, the Dutch Investor Association, expressed most shareholders’ annoyance when he said "We are caught between a rock and a hard place." Deloitte’s told the meeting that regulators were looking into Deloitte’s earlier audits of Steinhoff to see if there were any cause for concern. So far nothing has emerged, said Deloitte.

One shareholder wanted the board to explain why Philip Dieperink had been appointed as group chief financial officer given the suggestions that he may have personally benefited from the accounting irregularities at Steinhoff.

Chairperson Heather Sonn told the meeting that each member of the management and supervisory board had given an undertaking that if anything emerged implicating them they would immediately step down. So far none of the board members have been implicated by PwC’s ongoing investigation.

Although there was little new information provided at the meeting, which took place in Amsterdam with a satellite connection in Cape Town, a few useful details did emerge most significant of which is that Booysen, after engagements with Deloitte, was the first to bring the possibility of accounting irregularities to the board.