Explaining the inflated profits, La Grange says a seemingly non-existent buying group. Photo: Vernon Pillay

PARLIAMENT - Billions of rand in losses suffered by Africa's largest asset manager, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), following the collapse of the Steinhoff share price was likely permanent, members of Parliament (MPs) heard on Wednesday.

Testifying before four parliamentary committees, the multinational retailer's former chief financial officer, Ben La Grange, said the PIC, which manages pension funds on behalf of South Africa's public servants was Steinhoff's second biggest shareholder.

He said he did not think what the PIC lost would be recouped.

"The losses that pension funds took up to date will in all likelihood be permanent losses and not temporary losses," said La Grange.

During the same meeting, Steinhoff supervisory board chairwoman Heather Sonn said she could not give MPs a guarantee that pension funds were safe because there were "so many circumstances" outside the board's control.

In January, the PIC told MPs it believed it could extract value from Steinhoff despite a significant decline in its share price following a declaration of "accounting irregularities" in December last year.

At the time, the the PIC and GEPF (Government Employees Pension Fund) were at pains to explain the losses constituted only one percent of assets, but said the rand value lost -- estimated then at some R20 billion -- was significant.

- African News Agency (ANA)