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BREAKING NEWS

Crisis-hit Steinhoff's quarterly sales up three percent

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African retailer Steinhoff reported a slight rise in quarterly sales on Thursday and said its business was still suffering from the effects of an accounting fraud.

Steinhoff was thrown a lifeline last July when its creditors agreed to delay debt claims for three years after the multinational retailer revealed a more than $12 billion (£9 billion) hole in its accounts.

The owner of the Mattress Firm chain in the U.S. and Conforama outlets in France said sales rose 3 percent to 4.7 billion euros (£4.0 billion) in the three months to December, with a strong performance at separately listed Africa unit Pepkor compensating for weak results in France, the United States and Asia Pacific.

"The liquidity constraints and loss of confidence resulting from the discovery of the alleged accounting irregularities continued to have an impact on operations," chief executive Louis du Preez said.

Steinhoff has already written down the value of its assets by more than $12 billion following the initial findings of an independent investigation into the company's past bookkeeping practices.

The full findings of the forensic investigation, being carried out by accounting firm PwC, would be delivered to the board in mid-March before being made public in the middle of the following month.

Shares in Steinhoff fell 3.7 percent to 2.08 rand as of 0947 GMT, valuing the company at around 9 billion rand (£484 million), down from more than 200 billion rand 15 months ago.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)

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