Prince Frog International Holdings Ltd. (1259) plunged 22 percent as it traded in Hong Kong for the first time since allegations from short-seller Glaucus Research Group dropped the stock by a record last month.
Some Chinese businesses that have drawn attention from short sellers have seen their market value eroded. In October, Carson Block’s Muddy Waters Research LLC drove down the stock of NQ Mobile Inc. (NQ), saying it inflated sales. Glaucus on Oct. 16 initiated coverage of Prince Frog at a strong sell, saying tax records indicate the company’s net income was less than reported.
“It took Prince Frog over one month to respond to the most basic questions about its business,” Glaucus said on its Twitter feed today.
Prince Frog has started buying back shares, Chairman Li Zhenhui said in an investor conference call today, adding he will also repurchase some shares. The stock had slumped 26 percent on Oct. 16, the biggest decline since its listing in July 2011, before being halted.
“It would take time to re-establish investors’ confidence,” Howard Wong, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sunwah Kingsway, wrote in a note to clients today. The stock “may continue to suffer some short-term selling pressure,” he said.
Prince Frog’s reported sales figures didn’t match independent data available from Nielsen, Glaucus said in its Oct. 16 report. The total retail sales of Prince Frog’s children’s moisturizing lotion products in 2012 was 135 million yuan according to Nielsen, or less than 25 percent of reported figures, the short seller said in its report.
“The company believes that the claims made in the report to be without merit and not supported by evidence,” said Prince Frog, which is based in Zhangzhou, a city in the southern Chinese province of Fujian. An audit committee “unanimously agreed that the allegations are misconstrued, erroneous and inappropriate,” it said.
Nielsen hasn’t authorized Glaucus to use its data, the market research firm said in an e-mail today, responding to questions on the short-seller’s report.
Glaucus also said the Chinese government’s tax records indicate Prince Frog’s net income is “a fraction of reported figures.”
Prince Frog today said its rapid sales growth was “highly plausible and achievable” based on “solid” fundamentals.
Soren Aandahl, Director of Research at Glaucus, referred queries to the company’s Twitter feed.
Glaucus, which has an office in Newport Beach, California, was founded by Matthew Wiechert, who has a background in investment banking, to probe companies that appear “too good to be true,” according to its website.
Prince Frog reported a 31 percent rise in profit to 241.1 million yuan ($40 million) last year. Marketing investments and advertising with popular Hong Kong singer Kelly Chen boosted awareness of its brand, it said in the annual report. It also cited sales gains from selling on Chinese e-commerce sites such as T-Mall and expanding in outlets such as those operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Carrefour SA.
Separately, NQ Mobile, a Chinese mobile-services provider with headquarters in Beijing and Dallas, has battled the fraud allegations from Muddy Waters. It held a conference call to rebut the criticism within a day and transferred about $103 million in cash to an account at Standard Chartered Bank to demonstrate its reserves.
NQ Mobile dropped 47 percent on Oct. 24, the day Muddy Waters initiated coverage, and the stock’s last price of $13.92 is 39 percent lower than the Oct. 23 closing price.
Vegetable processor China Minzhong Food Corp. tumbled 48 percent, the most on record, in less than two hours on Aug. 26 after Glaucus questioned the company’s accounts in a report. Minzhong said it “strongly” denied the allegations.
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