CAPS Rating (out of 5)
|Focus Media (Nasdaq: FMCN )|| |
|VanceInfo Technologies (NYSE: VIT )|| |
|Sify Technologies (Nasdaq: SIFY )|| |
Muddying the waters
It's no fun owning a stock accused of financial shenanigans -- just ask me, I own Bio-Reference Labs (Nasdaq: BRLI ) , which was the target of a two-part Street Sweeper expose. Now, though, Focus Media is facing what appears to be some nitty-gritty, down-in-the-numbers analysis alleging that the company has engaged in fraud.
Short-selling firm Mudd! y Waters took aim at the Chinese media outfit and declared it was "fraudulently overstating" its numbers while insiders were running the company for their own benefit. Specifically, Muddy Waters alleges Focus Media overstates the number of LCD screens in its network by 50% while overpaying for a string of acquisitions that it then wrote down on its financial statements as a means of hiding losses.
Focus Media certainly isn't the only Chinese company to face allegations of fraud. Muddy Waters itself has questioned several, including Orient Paper and Spreadtrum Communications (Nasdaq: SPRD ) , about their financials. Earlier this month, Citron Research, another high-profile short-seller, attacked Chinese Internet company Qihoo 360 Technology (NYSE: QIHU ) -- an attack that Qihoo didn't hesitate to fight back on.
Although 94% of those CAPS members rating Focus Media think it would outperform the broad market averages, its low two-star rating suggests they believe there are better places for your money. The most recent comments highlight the Muddy Waters report, underscoring one fund manager's view that "if I see a sell recommendation from Muddy Waters, I'm going to sell and ask questions later."
Add Focus Media to your watchlist to watch as it fights back -- if it can -- against the allegations.
Can we outsource losses?
A week after Chinese IT outsourcing specialist VanceInfo Technologies was punished by the market for rehiring the auditor who has been at the heart of some of those scandalized Chinese companies -- Deloitte was the auditor for Longtop Financial -- it posted some encouraging third-quarter results that helped boost shares by more than 40%. The market did beat back the stock somewhat, perhaps in light of the Focus Media allegations. Call it a tarnished halo effect, as I found no company-specific news to account for the drop.
Or may be it fell in sympathy with Sify Technologies, which was beaten down over the widening scope of the MF Global bankruptcy. As the amount of investor losses at the trading firm mounts to $1.2 billion, investors are worried about the relationship Sify has with MF Global in a joint venture in India.
The Indian IT specialist was flying high earlier this month after its own third-quarter results came in strong, and as its enterprise segment -- Sify's largest -- experienced 7.5% growth from the year-ago period. While its smaller commercial and consumer segment that houses its broadband access and cyber cafe business withers, which could be problematic for Internet portal Rediff.com (Nasdaq: REDF ) , the main engine of growth for Sify was still intact.
Like Focus Media, both VanceInfo and Sify have strong CAPS community support (90% and 91%, respectively) that they will outperform the broad market averages. Yet, both also sport low ratings just like the outdoor advertiser, meaning whatever hopes they had for their future were tepid at best.
Tell us on the CAPS pages of both VanceInfo Technologies and Sify Technologies if you think they'll bounce back from here, and follow their progress by adding them to the Fool's free portfolio tracker.
Ready for a resurrection
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