* South African lenders back interim liquidity support
* First instalment of 60 mln euros to be received this week
* Steinhoff seeks support totalling 200 mln euros
* To ask creditors to waive some payments coming due (Adds next meeting with creditors, details on lenders)
FRANKFURT, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Retailer Steinhoff’s South African lenders have backed a move to prop up its troubled European operations with liquidity from healthier South African subsidiaries as the group scrambles to close a funding gap.
A first instalment of 60 million euros ($73 million) of a total 200 million it is seeking will be received this week, Steinhoff said in a statement on Thursday, adding it was seeking consent for further instalments.
“It is expected that any funds so received will be available to meet business critical payments during the next phase of the group’s stabilisation plan,” it said.
The group, owner of more than 40 retail brands including Poundland in Britain and Mattress Firm in the United States, last month revealed “accounting irregularities” which helped to wipe about $15 billion, or 85 percent, off its market value.
The company’s two top executives have resigned, as well as its chairman, and the group is currently being run by an acting chief executive while its former finance chief works full-time on securing financing.
Sources close to the negotiations told Reuters last week that Steinhoff was racing to plug a 200 million euro funding gap to avoid a small unit such as Austrian Kika-Leiner pulling down the entire group.
“To date, additional external liquidity has not been obtained in the time available given the complexity of the Group structure and the terms of the existing financings, although additional external liquidity may be required in the future,” Steinhoff said on Thursday.
It has scheduled another meeting with its European-based financial creditors for Jan. 26, it said.
It said it would ask its creditors in the coming weeks to waive some payments that are coming due under existing financing arrangements for its European business.
It will also seek to refinance or redeem as soon as possible some or all of its debt in South Africa to release additional funds to use for the rest of the group, it said.
Once the short-term funding issues have been resolved, Steinhoff will have to decide whether asset disposals and refinancings will suffice or whether it will opt for a full-blown debt restructuring.
Roughly 2 billion of Steinhoff’s 10.7 billion euros in debt matures this year.
Steinhoff’s top nine banks, with an exposure of more than 500 million euros to the retailer, are Commerzbank, UniCredit, Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas , JPMorgan, HSBC, Citi, Mizuho and Bank of America.
But Steinhoff is also talking to third party investors like hedge fund Davidson Kempner - which supplied the Poundland loan - about their interest in supplying fresh money, sources have said.
($1 = 0.8169 euros)
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman