KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 (Reuters) - Hong Kong-based GMT Research has issued a report questioning airline AirAsia Bhd’s accounting practices, accusing it of using transactions with associate companies to boost its earnings, according to a copy obtained by Reuters.
The report was issued on June 10 to GMT’s subscribers and since then shares in the low-cost carrier have lost 14 percent or 812 million ringgit ($215 million) in market value.
“We are in discussions with the company about our concerns,” GMT’s founder Gillem Tulloch said in a statement on the research house’s website.
An official for AirAsia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Maybank analyst Mohshin Aziz said in a note to clients on Friday that while the airline’s shares had been hit by an independent report accusing it of accounting anomalies, he was maintaining his “buy” call on the stock.
“We believe AirAsia’s accounts are transparent,” Mohshin said in the note. “The auditors have approved the latest 2014 accounts without any qualification.”
A spokeswoman for PwC, the company’s auditor, declined to comment, citing client confidentiality.
AirAsia’s stock fell as low as 1.73 ringgit on Friday, a five-year low. By contrast, Maybank has a price target of 2.45 ringgit on the stock.
Shares in AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of AirAsia, have also fallen, declining 8 percent since June 9.
Tony Fernandes, an outspoken Malaysian entrepreneur, founded AirAsia in 2001 with two aircraft and it has since helped to usher in an age of low-cost air travel in Asia.
Its fleet has grown to 171 Airbus jets serving destinations in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and India. At one point, it placed orders for almost 500 jets.
Rivals including Jetstar Asia, Tiger Airways and Lion Air have stepped up their capacity, creating oversupply in a very competitive market.
GMT, which says it is not a short seller but an accounting research firm licensed by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, said on its website that it has a press embargo on the report until June 24.
It previously issued a report on Singapore commodities trader Noble Group Lltd, adding to damaging criticism led by little known research firm Iceberg. ($1 = 3.7580 ringgit) (Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)