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S.Africa fines scandal-hit retailer Steinhoff over false data

Embattled international retail giant Steinhoff was fined 13.5 million rand ($818,000) by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Tuesday for breaching listing requirements including publishing “false and misleading” information.

The company is still struggling to emerge from a huge scandal in 2017 when it was investigated on suspicion of fraud, with a reported six billion euro (seven billion dollar) hole in its accounts.

Steinhoff, which is listed in both Frankfurt and Johannesburg, saw nearly 98 percent of its share value wiped out as it faced a barrage of litigation from aggrieved shareholders and business partners, including former chairman Christo Wiese.

The JSE, whose own probe has uncovered a trail of deception in Steinhoff’s affairs, said Tuesday that the company’s finanical reports in 2016, 2015 and prior periods did not comply with international reporting standards.

In addition, the information disclosed was “incorrect, false and misleading in material aspects”, the JSE said, announcing three fines totalling 13.5 million rand.

Steinhoff CEO Louis du Preez said the company noted the JSE decision and was pleased that its probe was concluded.

However, the JSE said its investigation into the conduct of individuals who presided over the company during the periods in question was ongoing.

Shares in Steinhoff, which was founded in Germany and now has holdings in several retail brands across the world, were down 1.16 percent to 85 cents in Johannesburg on Tuesday.