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Steinhoff International's Africa unit says Shoprite deal will not proceed

Christoffel Wiese, one of South Africa's wealthiest businessmen, on Dec. 15 appeared to pull the plug on a deal to bring together his retail assets under the control of embattled Steinhoff International Holdings NV.

A day after Wiese resigned as executive chairman of the furniture, household goods and general merchandise retailer, Steinhoff subsidiary Steinhoff Africa Retail Ltd said that a deal giving it control over South African grocery retailer Shoprite Holdings Ltd. would not proceed as planned.

Wiese, known as Christo, is a leading investor in Steinhoff International, but he submitted his resignation after creditors sold off shares that he had put up as collateral against loans, terminating a voting pool that controlled the company. The board accepted his resignation.

Wiese also is chairman of Shoprite, in which he is the leading shareholder.

The transaction between Steinhoff Africa Retail, known as STAR, and Shoprite was widely regarded as a way for Wiese to assemble his retail assets under one roof. STAR contains the Africa retail assets of Steinhoff International and was spun off in September 2017.

In August 2017, Steinhoff, STAR and Shoprite agreed on a transaction for STAR to acquire a roughly 23.1% economic interest in and approximately 50.6% voting control of Shoprite via the execution of a series of call options.

However, STAR said in a statement Dec. 15 that call options with some investment vehicles controlled by Wiese would not be implemented, scuppering the deal.

Steinhoff International, which owns Sleepy's in the U.S., Conforama in Europe and Poundland in the U.K., disclosed on Dec. 6 possible accounting irregularities, and CEO Markus Jooste resigned immediately, precipitating a drop of more than 80% in its share price.

It has not reported results for the year ended Sept. 30, 2017, and said Dec. 14 that its consolidated financial statements for the year ended Sept. 30, 2016, needed to be restated.

Separately, South Africa's Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors said Dec. 15 that it had launched an investigation into Deloitte South Africa following the share price collapse of Steinhoff International and allegations of accounting irregularities.