Research

NOBLE GROUP 2

Whilst Noble Group appears to be reporting accounting profits, there is evidence of significant tax losses – about US$1.8bn of them. In the income statement, these have been masked by US$4-5bn in asset revaluations and fair value gains over the past five years. Their lack of cash flow has been concealed by a suspected change in accounting policy, a blow-out in payables and confusing disclosure. Should these losses have been made public, we can but presume that the company would have almost no equity, lost its credit rating and would most likely be in creditor administration. Following the release of…
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Insights

HENGAN INTL

SELL: Magic Margins

Nigel Stevenson · 17 December 2018

Short-seller, Bonitas Research has targeted Hengan (1044 HK) as a fraud. Operating margins in its sanitary napkins business of over 50% are far higher than those earned by any other comparable business. We struggle to think of any plausible explanation. Hengan has also accumulated US$3bn of cash, yet continues to raise additional debt. Nonetheless, proving fraud is difficult: any evidence that Hengan has faked its profits is entirely circumstantial. But an air of suspicion is likely to hang over the stock. One easy solution would be for the company to reduce its cash to a reasonable level and repay its…
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TONGCHENG-ELONG

SELL: Risky, embellished and overrated

Mark Webb · 13 December 2018

Tongcheng-Elong is yet another hastily constructed company with limited historical financials that has sought a listing in Hong Kong. Taken at face value, China’s third largest online travel agency is more profitable than market leader Ctrip, in what is a highly commoditised business. How can that be? There is huge scope for manipulation given that the group has only existed in its present form since March 2018, meaning that historical financials are not representative. We’ve found evidence of profit inflation, cash flow manipulation and misleading non-GAAP performance measures. Given its business model is inferior to Ctrip’s, we believe Tongcheng-Elong should…
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PINDUODUO

Window-dressing rather than fraud

Mark Webb · 23 November 2018

Pinduoduo (PDD) has been accused of inflating GMV, overstating revenues, understating staff costs and, therefore, under-reporting its losses. In our view, the majority of allegations made by short-seller Blue Orca (BOC) are not supported by the evidence. We agree that PDD’s GMV is almost certainly exaggerated, but this is likely well known. BOC’s other arguments are less compelling. Its specific allegations about PDD inflating revenues and understating losses are not adequately established. In addition, while it flags inconsistencies over staff numbers, it is not evident that staff costs are artificially depressed. We argue that PDD is an unattractive investment, but…
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