Chinese financial scandals
When it matters
Markets in China are barely fazed by scandal, unless the state is involved
Aug 20th 2011 | HONG KONG | from the Economist edition
SHORT-SELLERS have been feasting of late on a crop of Chinese companies whose shares have collapsed on foreign markets amid allegations of deceptive accounting. Take Sino Forest, a forestry firm listed in Canada, whose shares slumped from C$25.30 ($26) in March to as low as C$1.99 in June after a research outfit questioned its accounts (Sino Forest has denied the claims and has commissioned a review by an independent committee).
A sharp fall in a company’s share price after allegations of deceptive accounting is hardly unexpected, except perhaps in China. What matters in a scandal there is a little different from in most other places.
A recent study by three academics* looks at several hundred scandals linked to companies traded on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges between 1997 and 2005. Their results are striking. Revelations of financial fraud and various other similar crimes, such as embezzlement and kickbacks, are not entirely irrelevant to a company’s share price. But to trigger the sort of collapse in a company’s stock, the loss of short-term financing and the managerial and board changes that occur in America or other developed markets requires another element in China: the involvement of the state.