Chinese sportswear firms reject allegations of improper accounting

HONG KONG (Reuters) - ANTA Sports Products Ltd 2020.HK and three other Chinese sportswear firms have hit back at a research report that has questioned their accounting practices, saying the allegations were groundless.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Anta Sports is seen on its product during a news conference announcing the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

ANTA shares have lost 5 percent since a June 12 report by Hong Kong-based GMT Research, issued to its subscribers, said that ANTA’s operating margins were so high that it was either the world’s best-run sportswear firm or its accounting practices were questionable. A copy of the report was obtained by Reuters.

GMT, an Asia-focused accounting research firm, says on its website that its goal is to use financial statements to judge whether a company is overstating or understating its profits through the exploitation of accounting standards.

ANTA, China’s biggest sportswear firm by market value, said the report contained certain factual errors, misleading statements and unfounded speculation that may lead to unusual moves in its stock.

“The board vigorously denies the speculations contained in the report and considers them to be inaccurate and misleading,” Chairman Ding Shizhong said in a statement late on Thursday, adding the company reserved the right to take legal action.

Xtep International Holdings Ltd 1368.HK and 361 Degrees International Ltd 1361.HK, whose operating margins were also questioned, also issued statements saying the GMT report was incorrect and misleading.

“The board considers that the report contained certain factual errors, misleading statements and unfounded speculations,” Xtep Chairman Ding Shui Po said. “No accounting fraud has ever been committed.”

Xtep shares have lost 2.5 percent since the report, while 361 Degrees has eased 1.2 percent.

GMT also questioned accounting practices at China Dongxiang (Group) Co Ltd 3818.HK. The company said in a statement that the report contained unfounded allegations regarding its financial performance, in particular regarding its inventory management and cash flow.

Dongxiang’s stock has lost 1.3 percent since the report.

Reporting by Donny Kwok, Anne Marie Roantree and Jennifer Hughes; Editing by Edwina Gibbs