Wirecard shares collapse as auditor says €1.9b missing

Company logo at the headquarters of the technology and financial services company Wirecard in Aschheim near Munich, southern Germany September 18, 2018. — AFP pic
Company logo at the headquarters of the technology and financial services company Wirecard in Aschheim near Munich, southern Germany September 18, 2018. — AFP pic

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FRANKFURT, June 18 — Shares in under-investigation German payments provider Wirecard shed more than two-thirds of their value in minutes Thursday, as “spurious” audit data covering €1.9 billion (RM9 billion) of cash prevented the company from issuing its 2019 annual report.

Auditors Ernst and Young had identified “spurious balance confirmations” relating to “cash balances on trust accounts”, Wirecard said in a statement.

The news prompted its share price to plunge more than 66 per cent before rebounding, trading down almost 49 per cent at €53.35 around 0930 GMT.

“It is currently unclear whether fraudulent transactions to the detriment of Wirecard AG have occurred,” chief executive Markus Braun said, adding that the company would file a legal complaint against persons unknown.

The auditor’s red flag was raised over escrow accounts at two Asian banks, which were supposed to hold €1.9 billion to manage risk for merchants using Wirecard’s payment services.

EY received “recent communications from the two banks that have been managing the escrow accounts since 2019, according to which the account numbers in question could not be assigned,” Wirecard said.

The fourth delay to the company’s release of its 2019 financial statement came two weeks after Munich prosecutors said they were investigating the entire four-person board for “market manipulation”.

Following a series of articles in the Financial Times last year alleging accounting irregularities in its Asian operations, KPMG was called in by Wirecard’s supervisory board to audit its books for 2016-18.

Wirecard attempted to present intermediate steps of the audit in a favourable light, which prosecutors said “could have given misleading signals for the company’s stock market price”. — AFP

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