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JOHANNESBURG - South African stocks fell to their lowest in more than a month on Wednesday after Steinhoff shares plummeted when the company announced an investigation into accounting irregularities and its chief executive officer resigned. The rand retreated.

The benchmark Top-40 index weakened 1.6% to 51,572 points while the All-Share index dropped 1.64% to 58,010 points.

Steinhoff , which is listed in Johannesburg and Frankfurt, shocked investors when it said late on Tuesday that “new information has come to light today which relates to accounting irregularities requiring further investigation.”

The household goods retailer also said CEO Markus Jooste had quit as CEO after nearly 20 years in the job.

Steinhoff’s South African listed shares plunged 61.42% to 17.61 rand by its Tuesday close, after hitting more than eight year lows in intra-day trading.

In the fallout Steinhoff African Retail (STAR) fell 22.76% to 19.00 rand, after its chief executive Ben la Grange resigned.

“That’s created more and more uncertainty - investors sell first and ask questions later,” said Cratos Capital equities trader Greg Davies.

The rand fell, giving up some of the recent gains triggered by data showing the economy was on the mend and hopes that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will win the race to become the next leader of the ruling party.

At 1535 GMT the rand was 0.8% weaker at 13.5450 per dollar, compared with a close of 13.4375 overnight in New York.

The currency gained in the previous session after the economy expanded by a surprise 2% quarter-on-quarter, but failed to breach the 13.40 technical resistance mark.

The rand also got support from investor bets on a victory by Ramaphosa at the ruling African National Congress’s leadership conference next week, where a successor to the current leader, President Jacob Zuma, will be crowned.

“So far, Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have the best prospects. The markets feel optimistic about that, which supports the rand further. But it remains very susceptible – a fact also reflected in the high implied volatility,” Commerzbank analysts said in a note.

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark government paper due in 2026 was flat at 9.175%.