June 22, 2018 / 6:37 AM / 2 years ago

Steinhoff enters agreements to sell Austrian unit to Rene Benko's Signa

June 22 (Reuters) - South African retailer Steinhoff International Holdings N.V. said it had agreed to sell Kika/Leiner furniture and household goods retail unit to Austrian property and retail investor Rene Benko’s Signa Holding GmbH for a “nominal amount”.

Steinhoff revealed holes in its accounts six months ago, shocking investors who had backed its reinvention, sending its shares crashing and leaving it scrambling to pay its debts.

Steinhoff said the consideration for Kika/Leiner operating companies would be a nominal amount, but did not disclose details. Kika/Leiner said last week that Benko had reached a deal to buy the company, saving it from bankruptcy.

The South African firm said the sale would require clearance from the competition authorities in Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia on or before Sept. 30.

Kika/Leiner has a market share of around 20 percent in its home market, targeting upmarket as well as price-conscious customers with a broad product range.

It needs further funding besides a turnaround plan focusing on reducing product range and headcount, Steinhoff said in a presentation last month. The unit’s marketability and fair value were not currently possible to assess, it said.

“Signa has prior restructuring experience in the retail sector and as such offers the Kika/Leiner business, its suppliers, customers and employees the support required at this time,” Danie van der Merwe, acting Steinhoff CEO, said.

Benko controls a 12 billion euro ($14 billion) real estate portfolio and generates annual revenue of 4 billion euros with retail businesses via his Signa Holding, according to his website.

Benko already bought Kika/Leiner’s flagship store in central Vienna shortly after the Steinhoff crisis erupted in December.

Steinhoff also said on Friday it would sell property holding companies to Signa Holding GmbH based on an enterprise value of about 490 million euros ($569.97 million).

$1 = 0.8594 euros Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru Editing by Edmund Blair

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