(Reuters) - Iron ore miner Ferrexpo rejected on Monday an allegation by auditor Deloitte that it had delayed an investigation into the use of funds by its charity partner in Ukraine.
Deloitte quit as Ferrexpo’s auditor on Friday, days after saying it was unable to conclude whether the miner’s chief executive - Ukrainian billionaire Kostyantin Zhevago - controlled a charity that is being investigated over its use of company donations.
Zhevago is also Ferrexpo’s majority owner.
Switzerland-based Ferrexpo acknowledged last week that some funds it donated to its charity partner in Ukraine, Blooming Land, could have been “misappropriated” as previously indicated by findings of an ongoing independent investigation.
It was the latest development in a row that has seen the miner’s shares lose nearly a third of their value since early February, when Ferrexpo - the third largest producer of iron ore pellets for the global steel industry - first disclosed that it was looking at possible discrepancies in its charity partner’s bank statements.
Shares in London-listed Ferrexpo recovered some ground on Monday, jumping 10 percent to 212 pence, after the company said it was looking for two new directors after resignations last week and said it continued to “trade strongly”.
Ferrexpo, in a statement on Monday, said it had received a statement from Deloitte alleging that the miner had delayed the auditor’s investigation into Ferrexpo’s donations to Blooming Land. Ferrexpo, in the same statement, went on to say that that was not the case.
While Deloitte said it had repeatedly asked Ferrexpo to conduct an independent forensic investigation, and had quit as auditor after it was unable to ascertain whether Zhevago controlled the charity, Ferrexpo said it had considered starting an independent review in November, but decided a “cooperative route” would get better results.
It said it had written to Blooming Land to formally request information and explanations for the discrepancies.
Following an “incomplete and unsatisfactory” response from Blooming Land and after seeking further clarification, Ferrexpo said it had launched the independent review.
Reuters was not immediately able to contact Zhevago. Blooming Land did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Deloitte declined to comment.
Blooming Land, which coordinates Ferrexpo’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, came under scrutiny after auditors from Deloitte found holes in the charity’s bank statements.
Funding for Blooming Land’s CSR activities is provided by one of Ferrexpo’s units in Ukraine and Khimreaktiv LLC, an entity ultimately controlled by Zhevago.
(GRAPHIC: Ferrexpo plunges on charity probe - tmsnrt.rs/2WgkhmU)
Ferrexpo has maintained that Zhevago did not have significant influence or control over the charity.
The miner said its chairman would speak to investors later this week.
“While there are indications that some funds could have been misappropriated, further work is required before any final conclusions can be drawn,” Ferrexpo Chairman Steve Lucas said.
Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Susan Fenton