(Adds details on accounting issues, analyst comments, background)
By Lewis Krauskopf and Sagarika Jaisinghani
June 6 (Reuters) - Hertz Global Holdings Inc said it would restate or correct financial results for the past three years to fix accounting errors originating in 2011, sending the car rental company’s shares down as much as 11.5 percent on Friday.
First-quarter results are likely to be below market estimates due to costs related to the accounting review, the No. 2 U.S. car rental firm said in a regulatory filing that signaled further possible financial adjustments ahead.
Hertz, along with Avis Budget Group Inc and privately held Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the market leader, together control about 90 percent of the U.S. car rental market.
Friday’s trading erased all of the gains so far this year for shares of Hertz, whose shareholders include Larry Robbins’ Glenview Capital Management LLC and Daniel Loeb’s Third Point Capital.
The company initially had been scheduled to report first-quarter results on May 7, but warned last month that it would not report on time and said it had identified errors that might cause it to restate its 2011 financial statements.
At the time, Hertz said it needed to do more work related to evaluating the capitalization and depreciation timing for “certain non-fleet expenditures.” The company said adjustments, including for allowances for doubtful accounts in Brazil, would likely reduce its 2011 net income by as much as $9.8 million, to $174 million.
Asked about the errors that Hertz pointed to regarding depreciation timing, Robert Willens, a corporate tax and accounting analyst based in New York, said some companies can boost earnings by depreciating property “over excessively long periods of time.”
Stretching out the depreciation period is not “absolutely indicative of earnings management, but it’s a real red flag,” Willens said.
Gabelli & Co analyst Colin Daddino said, “The accounting issues are not related to the core business, which is renting vehicles. But if we see further accounting problems that do affect the core business that will be much more of an issue, and that is the biggest risk right now.”
News of the accounting errors comes after Hertz has had three chief financial officers on a permanent or interim basis in less than a year.
Last September, Hertz announced that Elyse Douglas, who had been CFO since 2007, would step down in October, saying that Douglas had said she would not be able to relocate from the New York City area to the company’s new headquarters in Florida.
Hertz said on Friday it was implementing new procedures and controls, and strengthening the accounting and finance departments through the addition of new personnel, a process led by Tom Kennedy, who joined as CFO in December from Hilton Worldwide.
Assisting Kennedy is Robin Kramer, who was named chief accounting officer in April, succeeding Jatindar Kapur, who had been senior vice president of finance and corporate controller. Hertz said in April that Kapur’s resignation was for personal reasons and was not due to any disagreement on any matter relating to operations, policies or practices.
In addition to the depreciation issues, Hertz said on Friday in a U.S. securities filing that it recently identified errors related to allowances for uncollectible amounts from renters for damaged vehicles and to other obligations from facility leases.
The audit committee of Hertz’s board decided the 2011 financial statements should no longer be relied on and Hertz must restate them.
The audit committee also told the car rental company to review the last three years of records, which may require further adjustments. The company will make a decision on its 2012 and 2013 statements after the review, Hertz said in a filing.
Hertz said in the latest filing that it had determined that “at least one” material weakness existed in its internal control over financial reporting and that “disclosure controls and procedures were ineffective at December 31, 2013.”
A company spokeswoman declined to comment beyond Friday’s filing.
The company said it had discussed the matter with its accountant, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Caroline Nolan, a spokeswoman for PwC, declined comment, referring questions to Hertz.
Hertz’s accounting problems come at a time when the car rental industry is picking up as business and leisure travel increases along with an improving economy in the United States.
However, Hertz has not been able to benefit, partly due to higher expenses. The company’s adjusted net earnings fell 13 percent in the 2013 fourth quarter. Hertz said in March that during the quarter, it had identified errors totaling $46.3 million in prior periods.
The company, under pressure from investors to focus on car rentals, said in March that it would spin off its equipment rental business, raising $2.5 billion to reduce debt and fund a $1 billion share buyback.
The company’s U.S. rental car revenue per day fell 1.6 percent in the first quarter ended March 31, hurt by excess fleet and a late Easter holiday. Easter fell on April 20 this year; in 2013 Easter fell on March 31.
Hertz shares closed down 9.1 percent at $27.73 on the New York Stock Exchange, after sliding as low as $26.97 earlier. (Additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bangalore and Dena Aubin in New York; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Leslie Adler)