Steinhoff shares sink as CEO Jooske leaves amid 'accounting irregularities'

A Steinhoff International Holdings NV logo sits on display outside the company's offices in Stellenbosch South Africa on Wednesday Aug. 17 2016

Steinhoff International, Europe's second-largest furniture retailer by sales said it had launched an investigation into accounting irregularities and that its chief executive had resigned on Tuesday.

Steinhoff International shares plummeted on Wednesday as its chief executive officer Markus Jooste resigned with immediate effect amid "accounting irregularities", while the release of the company's 2017 numbers has been postponed.

The board has appointed Steinhoff's chairman, the South African retail billionaire Christo Wiese, as executive chairman on an interim basis following Mr Jooste's departure.

Its statement said: "The Supervisory Board of Steinhoff wishes to advise shareholders that new information has come to light today which relates to accounting irregularities requiring further investigation".

JSE-listed African retail subsidiary Steinhoff Africa Retail (STAR) announced on Wednesday that it was "unaffected by the events at [JSE-listed retail multinational] Steinhoff".

Steinhoff moved its primary stock market listing from South Africa to Frankfurt in 2015.

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Shares in the firm tumbled over 60% in South Africa on Wednesday as investors digested the news. Shares in Frankfurt were down 58 percent.

The company had previously said authorities there were examining whether revenue was booked correctly and taxable profit correctly declared.

Reuters reported last month that Steinhoff International did not tell investors about nearly $1 billion in transactions with a related company despite laws that some experts believe require it to do so.

It added that Markus Jooste - its CEO of nearly 20 years - had resigned with immediate effect. It warned it might have to restate financial statements from prior years.

It is unclear what accounting irregularities the company was referring to in its statement on Tuesday.

At 1130 GMT, the shares were down 65% to €1.04.

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