April 19, 2018 / 3:58 PM / 3 months ago

South African bank Absa denies being liable for damages over Steinhoff

JOHANNESBURG, April 19 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Absa Bank denied on Thursday it was liable for damages incurred by Steinhoff International investors after shareholder group VEB threatened to file a class action law suit against it and other banks.

VEB said in a statement dated April 18 and seen by Reuters on Thursday that it invited Absa, Barclays Plc and Commerzbank AG to open talks on “an amicable settlement, failing which VEB may file a class action law suit under Dutch process law against the banks.”

Both Barclays and Commerzbank declined to comment.

VEB maintained the banks are “liable for damages incurred by Steinhoff shareholders” because of their roles in the listing of Steinhoff on the Frankfurt and Johannesburg stock exchanges (JSE) as part of its creation of a holding company in Amsterdam.

“The prospectuses were misleading- VEB questions whether the prospectuses properly represent Steinhoff’s financial position,” VEB said.

Absa received the notice from VEB on Thursday and “disputes the allegations and will respond to VEB in due course,” it said in a statement.

Absa was the JSE Transaction sponsor to Steinhoff and its role was limited to ensuring that the JSE’s listing rules were complied with by Steinhoff, it said.

“Absa’s mandate specifically did not include the compilation or review of the financial statements of Steinhoff South Africa or any other Steinhoff company,” said the bank.

Steinhoff declined to comment on Wednesday.

Steinhoff, which has more than 40 retail brands including France’s Conforama and British chain Poundland, faced a fight for survival after admitting accounting irregularities in December, wiping about 85 percent off its market value and triggering a liquidity crisis.

Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by David Evans

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