April 28, 2020 / 11:59 AM / a month ago

Wirecard shares crash 26% after critical KPMG audit

BERLIN (Reuters) - An independent investigation by auditor KPMG into Wirecard (WDIG.DE) found on Tuesday the German payments company did not provide sufficient documentation to address all allegations of accounting irregularities made by the Financial Times.

Markus Braun, CEO of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions attends the company's annual news conference in Aschheim near Munich, Germany April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/Files

Following the release of the report, Wirecard said the KPMG audit had not uncovered any incriminating evidence to support allegations it manipulated its accounts and it would not restate its accounts for the years 2016 through 2018.

“I would like to underline that, overall and in every point, the allegations were not confirmed,” CEO Markus Braun told a conference call with reporters.

KPMG is continuing its analysis for last year after receiving fresh data, Wirecard said on Tuesday, as it delayed the publication of its annual results until next month.

The German payments company hired KPMG last year to conduct an independent audit to address allegations by the British newspaper, including that its Singapore office had booked fake transactions to inflate revenues.

The company has denied wrongdoing and taken legal action against the Financial Times. In its own report on the KPMG audit, the FT said it stood by its reporting and is defending the lawsuit.

Wirecard, founded in 1999, has profited from a boom in online payments by acting both as an acquirer, handling payments to hundreds of thousands of merchants, and as an issuer of real and ‘virtual’ payment cards to consumers.

Under Braun, who remains its largest shareholder, it won a spot in Germany's blue-chip DAX 30 .GDAXI index in 2018. The allegations have dogged the company over the past year, however, repeatedly wiping billions off its stock market value.

Publication of the KPMG audit sparked heavy losses that deepened as Braun faced tough questioning on a conference call with analysts. Shares were down 26%, erasing more than 4 billion euros from the company’s market value.

“This is anything but a clean bill of health,” said NordLB analyst Wolfgang Donie, who has a ‘hold’ rating on the stock.

BLACK HOLE

The main FT allegation where KPMG found fault was that Wirecard had booked half of its worldwide revenues and much of its profits from three obscure third-party acquiring partners.

KPMG said it was not able to conclude whether these revenues did or did not exist for the years 2016-18.

“The documents presented to KPMG were almost exclusively in electronic form, making their authenticity impossible to verify,” it said, also pointing to a lack of cooperation from Wirecard’s third-party acquiring partners.

NordLB’s Donie said the years 2016 to 2018 “remain a black hole” that left Wirecard “wide open to further allegations”.

KPMG also addressed allegations by the FT of fraudulent accounting at its Singapore office and overpaying for assets in India, and from anonymous website MCA-Mathematik of inflating the size of cash advances to merchants.

"We cannot make a final judgment on whether the documentation and information are complete, correct and free of contradiction," KPMG said in its 58-page report www.wirecard.com/transparency.

“To this extent, we cannot rule out that we would have come to a different result if we had obtained access to further information and documents.”

Markus Braun, CEO and Alexander von Knoop, CFO of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions, cast shadows at the company's annual news conference in Aschheim near Munich, Germany April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/Files

Wirecard either did not provide documents requested by KPMG, or only did so months later, delaying the overall investigation, KPMG said, adding that interviews with managers had been postponed repeatedly.

MCA-Mathematik said in a statement that Wirecard had “intentionally misled investors about the nature of the merchant cash advance lending programme” and called for the executive board to be suspended.

Singapore police confirmed that an investigation opened last year was continuing but did not comment further on KPMG’s report.

Additional reporting by Patricia Uhlig, Hans Seidenstuecker and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Michelle Martin and Josephine Mason

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