Steinhoff's Markus Jooste admits he made 'some big mistakes'

Cape Town - Markus Jooste, who late on Tuesday resigned as CEO of Steinhoff International with immediate effect amid an investigation into accounting irregularities, has admitted in a letter to colleagues he made "some big mistakes".

In what seems to be an informal, personalised letter, which Fin24 received from two independent sources who confirmed it to be from Jooste, the former CEO of the global retail group apologised for the bad publicity he caused Steinhoff over the past few months.

In August this year German business magazine Manager-Magazin reported that Jooste was among four employees being investigated by German prosecutors in connection with a 2015 case tied to possible accounting fraud.

Steinhoff's share price took a beating then, but that decrease was nowhere near as bloody as its precipitous decline on Wednesday.

The stock collapsed after Steinhoff announced that it had approached PwC to launch an independent investigation into accounting irregularities, and that SA billionaire Christo Wiese would step in as executive chairperson in the interim following Markus's resignation.

The share price closed down a record 61.42% at R17.61 on the JSE on Wednesday, wiping more than R100bn off the share value to give the company a market capitalisation of R75.89bn by market's close.

Steinhoff had already alerted investors in December 2015 - ahead of its listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange - that German authorities had searched its offices in November of that year in connection with a tax investigation.

On Wednesday, Wiese told Fin24 by phone that he was not talking to the media right now and referred all queries to Steinhoff. In turn, Steinhoff said via email that it could only refer Fin24 to its statement published on 5 December on its website.

"Steinhoff is currently not in a position to provide any additional information other than that available to the public via the stock exchange news service.

"The Company will publish the audited 2017 consolidated financial statements when it is in a position to do so. We will come back to you as soon as there are new developments to be communicated," Steinhoff added.

'Damage'

In his informal letter Jooste wrote: "Now I have caused the company further damage by not being able to finalise the year end audited numbers and I made some big mistakes and have now caused financial loss to many innocent people.

"It is time for me to move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man. Sorry that I have disappointed all of you and I never meant to cause any of you any harm."

He encouraged his colleagues to "continue to live the Steinhoff dream".

FULL LETTER

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