Enron Dj Vu? Citi, BofA, HSBC, Goldman, BNP on the Hook as Steinhoff Spirals Down

$21 billion of debt. Off-balance-sheet entities. Moody’s wakes up, downgrades it four notches, with more to come.
Steinhoff International Holdings – which acquired nine companies in the past two years, including Mattress Firm Holding in the US, and which presides over a cobbled-together empire of retailers and assorted other companies in the US, Europe, Africa, and Australasia – issued another devastating announcement today: It cancelled its ‘private’ annual meeting with bankers in London on Monday and rescheduled it for December 19.
This is the meeting when the company normally discusses its annual report with its global bankers. The annual report should have been released on Wednesday, December 6. But on precisely that day, the company announced cryptically that ‘accounting irregularities’ had ‘come to light’ that required ‘further investigation,’ and that CEO Markus Jooste had been axed ‘with immediate effect,’ and that it would postpone its annual report indefinitely.
This is raising serious questions about the company’s viability as a going concern. The lack of transparency doesn’t help.
To soothe investors, the company announced on Thursday that it was trying to prop up its liquidity by selling some units ASAP. And it made more cryptic statements: It ‘has given further consideration to the issues subject to the investigation and to the validity and recoverability’ of some assets of ‘circa 6 billion’ ($7 billion).

This post was published at Wolf Street by Wolf Richter ‘ Dec 8, 2017.