Steinhoff’s shares fell to their worst level since December on Thursday after the embattled retailer’s long-delayed 2017 financial statements raised questions about its survival.

The group said after the market’s close on Tuesday, ahead of a public holiday in SA on Wednesday, that there is “significant doubt” about its ability to continue as a going concern. The loss-making group faces hefty claims from shareholders.

It said management still needs time “to stabilise the group and re-establish value at operational level”.

Steinhoff’s shares fell 19.4% to R1.62 in early trade on Thursday.

The group also said in its financial report that the value of its assets had dropped by about R250bn compared with previously released 2016 numbers.

Once the world’s second-largest furniture retailer, Steinhoff’s market value collapsed after it said it had uncovered “accounting irregularities” in December 2017. At the same time, former CEO Markus Jooste stepped down.

After the write-downs, the firm was left with a €4.03bn loss for 2017, a swing of nearly €5.5bn over the previous period.

The results showed that the balance sheet was €14.6bn smaller than the one published in 2016, while total assets shrank to €17.5bn from €32.1bn.

The biggest restatements of balance-sheet items were to goodwill, intangible assets, and property, plant and equipment, which were reduced by a combined €10.9bn.

Steinhoff expects to publish its 2018 financial statements in June.