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Steinhoff, facing accounting probe, nominates COO as acting CEO

Steinhoff International Holdings NV, the South African retailer destabilized by an investigation into possible accounting irregularities, on Dec. 19 said it had nominated its COO, Danie van der Merwe, a former High Court attorney, as acting CEO.

The company, which includes Mattress Firm, the U.S. business that owns the Sleepy's brand, also said it nominated Alexandre Nodale as deputy CEO and Louis Du Preez, a qualified attorney who specializes in corporate and commercial matters, as commercial director.

The nominations will be submitted to the general meeting for appointment in due course, according to the statement.

The proposed appointments of an executive suite packed with legal expertise come after the Stellenbosch-based furniture, household goods and general merchandise retailer was plunged into turmoil Dec. 6, when it disclosed that it was hiring an independent auditor to probe its accounts and that CEO Markus Jooste had resigned with immediate effect.

The revelations sent its shares into freefall, shedding more than 60% in value on Dec. 6 alone. In lunchtime trading in Frankfurt on Dec. 19, its stock traded up 3 cents, or 4.3%, at 60 cents, 80% below the closing price Dec. 5.

Van der Merwe joined Steinhoff in 1999 and served as CEO of its southern hemisphere business before he was named COO in 2013. Nodale is the CEO of Conforama, a retailer in continental Europe owned by Steinhoff.

Steinhoff, which also owns Poundland, Harveys and Bensons for Beds in the U.K., is seeking stability following a period of upheaval.

However, an annual meeting of its lenders is taking place in London on Dec. 19.

A verdict is expected by Dec. 22 in a legal battle at the Enterprise Chamber of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal in which a former joint venture partner has raised questions about Steinhoff's accounts.

Steinhoff is yet to report its results for the year ended Sept. 30, 2017, and it said Dec. 14 that its consolidated financial statements for the year ended Sept. 30, 2016, need to be restated.