What $2.1bn? Wirecard says missing funds most likely do not exist

Scandal-hit German payments firm Wirecard AG said on Monday that 1.9 billion euros ($2.13bn) – about a quarter of its assets – that auditor EY has been unable to account for likely did not exist in the first place.

The company, whose stock price has plummeted 75 percent since EY refused to sign off its 2019 accounts last week, also said it has withdrawn its preliminary 2019 and first-quarter 2020 financial results as well as forecasts.

“The Management Board of Wirecard assesses on the basis of further examination that there is a prevailing likelihood that the bank trust account balances in the amount of 1.9 billion EUR do not exist,” the company said in a statement.

The development comes after Chief Executive Officer Markus Braun quit on Friday, with the company scrambling to secure a financial lifeline from its banks while its search for the money hit a dead end in the Philippines.

The Philippines’ central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, said none of the money appeared to have entered the country, after Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and BDO Unibank Inc said documents purporting to show Wirecard had deposited funds with them were false. Both said Wirecard was not a client.

BPI, however, told the Reuters news agency it had suspended an assistant manager whose signature appeared on one of the fraudulent documents. BDO told the central bank one of its marketing officers appeared to have fabricated a bank certificate.

“The central bank is actually doing its own investigation,” Bangko Sentral Governor Benjamin Diokno told channel ANC on Monday. “To the extent we are very strict on knowing our clients, I think we should also be strict in knowing the officers of the bank.”

Victim

Munich-based Wirecard has been lauded as a home-grown financial technology success and was propelled into Germany’s blue-chip DAX stock index in 2018 at the expense of Commerzbank AG.

On Thursday, it said auditor EY refused to sign off its 2019 accounts as it was unable to confirm the existence of 1.9 billion euros in cash balances in trust accounts, representing about a quarter of Wirecard’s balance sheet.

EY had regularly approved Wirecard’s accounts in recent years, and its refusal to sign off for 2019 confirmed failings found in an external investigation by KPMG in April, which in turn followed probing reports by the Financial Times.

Wirecard, which has been a target of investors questioning its financials, on Friday said it might be the victim of “fraud of considerable proportions”.

On Monday, it said it is examining a range of measures to ensure continued operations, including cost reduction, restructuring, disposal or termination of business units.

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