Steinhoff Moves Two Europe Units to U.K. After Winning Debt Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Steinhoff International Holdings NV relocated two units at the heart of its accounting scandal to the U.K. as the retailer embarks on a new phase of recovery after reorganizing debt.

Steinhoff Europe AG and Steinhoff Finance Holdings GmbH will move from Austria to Cheltenham, England -- where the South African company’s U.K. business is based. The supervisory boards of both units have been redrawn, with Steinhoff Chief Financial Officer Philip Dieperink and Commercial Director Louis du Preez holding positions at the Europe division.

Joining them is Richard Heis, a corporate restructuring specialist previously at KPMG LLP who Steinhoff hired in February. The trio are part of the new leadership team charged with rescuing the owner of Poundland in the U.K. and Mattress Firm in the U.S. after its share price collapsed and Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste quit.

Steinhoff won support in July from a majority of creditors to restructure 9.4 billion euros ($11 billion) of debt -- a crucial step toward its potential survival. Auditors at PwC are investigating the company’s accounts with a particular focus on off-balance-sheet and third-party deals, and aim to publish a report by the end of the year.

The company has said that the financial irregularities it reported in December are likely to have been focused on the European businesses, which also include Conforama in France, Pep stores in Eastern Europe and Hemisphere properties. Steinhoff sold loss-making Austrian furniture retailer Kika/Leiner and related real estate assets to local billionaire Rene Benko in June. The African business was spun off into a separately listed company before the scandal erupted.

Steinhoff shares gained 2.7 percent to 0.16 euros as of 1:49 p.m. in Frankfurt.

Last week, Steinhoff said it had replaced Dirk Schreiber, the former head of finance in Europe, on the boards of both the Europe and finance divisions.

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