Shares in Steinhoff, Poundland's South Africa-listed owner, have plummeted this morning as its chief executive quit amid news of an accounting probe.
Markus Jooste announced his resignation with immediate effect late last night, as the company announced that "new information has come to light" relating to "accounting irregularities requiring further investigation".
Steinhoff's board said that, in consultation with its statutory auditors, it had appointed PwC to launch an independent investigation.
Steinhoff, which also owns Bensons for Beds and Harveys furniture store, reassured shareholders it has "a number of high quality profitable businesses around the world".
Chairman Christo Wiese will take the role of executive chairman on a temporary basis, while Pieter Erasmus – formerly chief executive of Pepkor Group, one of Steinhoff's African subsidiaries – will help Wiese in an advisory capacity.
Steinhoff advised its shareholders and other investors to "exercise caution when dealing in the securities of the group", but a panicked sell-off has already caused the business's market cap to more than halve.
The news of a probe into Steinhoff follows the downfall of public relations firm Bell Pottinger this summer, after a report condemned the work it did for the Gupta family’s Oakbay Capital in South Africa.
Consultancy firm McKinsey has also become embroiled in a South African probe this year, after utility business Eskom said it had “unlawfully paid” McKinsey and its local partner Trillian Capital – which is also linked to the controversial Gupta family.