The Citizen (Gauteng)
Is Steinhoff trustworthy?
DEAL: ‘EXCELLENT OR DISCRIMINATORY’ Court action looms relating to the ‘discriminatory’ split of claimants into two groups.
Depending on who you’re listening to, Steinhoff is offering the ordinary South African investors who collectively lost untold billions of rands in the value of their Steinhoff shares an “excellent deal” or a “starkly discriminatory” one.
Chances are, if you’re one of those ordinary South African investors, or what Steinhoff terms a “market purchase claimant” (MPC) you’ll be feeling decidedly discriminated against.
If, on the other hand, you’re what Steinhoff has termed a “contractual claimant” (CC) you’ll believe the ordinary investors are getting a lot more than they deserve.
The CCs are the investors who ended up with Steinhoff shares as a result of a contract with Steinhoff. They include the former owners of Tekkie Town, the Public Investment Corporation, Christo Wiese-related entities, GT Ferreira, the Du Toit Trust, Enrico Greyling, and current and former Pepkor executives.
The unprecedented decision to divide the shareholders into two categories of claimants will become increasingly significant in the weeks ahead as investors in the country’s largest ever corporate scandal edge closer to a decisive Section 155 scheme meeting.
That meeting, which has to be sanctioned by the court, will give shareholders the opportunity to vote on the €943 million settlement that has been proposed by Steinhoff.
Last week marked the latest milestone in the remarkably complex settlement process that has set all manner of new precedents. Shareholders wanting to participate in the scheme meeting had to register by last Wednesday.
If all goes according to plan Steinhoff reckons getting the necessary support from claimants and the approval of Dutch and South African courts could take several months.
To this end it has had to negotiate extensions to deadlines struck in the past three extremely tough years.
Critically, the financial creditors have agreed to extend their deadline from December 2021 to December 2022, with a possible further extension to December 2023. This agreement was hardly surprising, given the generous 10% interest they are earning.
More prosaically it is also likely that Steinhoff will have to secure an extension of the approval it has received from the South African Reserve Bank for cross-border payments that will need to be made; its current 12-month deadline expires in November.
Creditors agreed to extend their deadline
Steinhoff did not respond to requests for details of the numbers of MPCs who had registered; also unknown is what percentage of shareholders are represented by the active claimant groups. A spokesman for the company referred to an earlier Sens announcement indicating that the next step would be the Section 155 meeting, the date of which would be announced “as soon as possible”.
However, by now Steinhoff, which has had sight of the registered claims, must have a pretty good idea of the level of support it has for a Section 155 meeting.
That level of support will determine whether it has to strike some sort of deal with Hamilton, the largest of the claimant groups and the only one so far to express its opposition to the proposed settlement.