Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK
Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK

The JSE opened slightly lower on Thursday, slipping below 58,000 points, as Steinhoff shares retreated another 30% in early-morning trade.

Indications were of long drawn-out investigations into the company by regulatory authorities in Germany, the US and SA.

Steinhoff admitted on Wednesday that irregular accounting practices had come to light, resulting in CEO Markus Jooste’s resignation and major shareholder Christo Wiese being appointed interim CEO. In a note to staff, Jooste admitted to having "made big mistakes".

The JSE decided on Wednesday not to suspend trading of its shares on the JSE. "There is at this stage no compelling reasons to do so."

Analysts and the market remained unsure about the full extent of the problems at the company, now suspected as fraud. The Viceroy research group said in a note that adjustments to Steinhoff’s numbers could be restated downward by "up to 85%".

The company had R100bn of debt, and it was impossible to know the real value of their trade payables, Business Day reported.

At 9.31am Steinhoff was down 30.55% at R12.16, and is down 84.5% for the year. Some analysts fear the group might approach an African Bank worse-case scenario where shares became worthless before the group was put into curatorship.

Related companies in the Wiese stable came under renewed selling pressure. Steinhoff African Retail shed 7.05% to R17.66 after listing at R27.40 in October. Brait lost 1.42% to R41.62 and Shoprite 0.75% to R221.44.

The all share was 0.16% lower at 57,915.70 points and the blue-chip top 40 down 0.11%. Food and drug retailers lost 1.15%, property 0.64%, banks 0.44% and resources 0.43%. The platinum index rebounded 0.77% and the gold index 0.29%.

The local market brushed off firmer Asian markets; the Nikkei 225 was up 1.45% and the Hang Seng added 0.14%. The Dow closed 0.16% lower at 24,140.91 points on Wednesday.

British American Tobacco dropped 0.93% to R906.50 as the rand held steady at around R13.55/$.

Property stocks took a breather after the index hit an annual high on Wednesday. Nepi Rockcastle dropped 2.08% to R211.50.

Naspers was up 2.17% at R3,519.99 after a recovery in Asian tech stocks, including Chinese internet company Tencent, of which Naspers owns about a third.

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