Tuesday 23 December 2014

Hong Kong SFC takes action against short seller Citron

From the Financial Times, some snippets:

Citron Research has become the first shortseller to face action from Hong Kong’s watchdog, which alleges the California-based group knowingly made “false and misleading” claims about Evergrande, the Chinese developer.

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission on Monday started market misconduct tribunal proceedings against Andrew Left, the head of Citron, for claims made in June 2012 that Evergrande was insolvent and had consistently presented false information.

Shortsellers aim to profit from price falls by borrowing shares they do not own in the expectation that they will be able to buy them back more cheaply. Mr Left made HK$1.7m ($219,251) in profit from selling short 4.1m Evergrande shares before he made his claims, the SFC said.

Mr Left declined to comment.

The Hong Kong action comes as shortsellers fall under increasing scrutiny from Asia’s regulators, who have variously probed the veracity of their claims and their methods. This year, Taiwanese regulators pursued Glaucus Research, another California-based shortseller, while India’s watchdog temporarily banned a small Hong Kong hedge fund for what it said was insider trading.

In June 2012 Evergrande plunged as much as 20 per cent on the day Citron released a 57-page report on the group, which is one of China’s largest developers and a household name for its ownership of the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club.

Evergrande, which is listed in Hong Kong, had a market capitalisation of about $8.6bn when Citron’s report was published online. It closed the day worth $7.6bn.

Citron is one of the better known of a group of China-focused short-sellers that emerged about five years ago and whose biggest scalp came in 2011 with the collapse of Sino-Forest, a $4bn forestry group, after Muddy Waters, another shortseller, questioned its veracity.

But shortsellers have enjoyed patchier success in recent years as companies have fought back and regulators stepped up their scrutiny. Evergrande was one of the first to issue a robust defence, blasting Citron’s claims and using the sort of colourful language employed by the shorts themselves.

David Webb commented on his website:

"This should be interesting. The SFC will need to show that Andrew Left either knew that his allegations were false or was reckless or negligent as to whether they were, in which case Section 277 of the SFO bites."

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