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  • Orient Paper Inc. (ONP): Does It Add Up? Questions for Orient Paper's Investigators. 28 comments
    Jul 6, 2010 3:51 PM | about stocks: ONP
       Orient Paper has hired Loeb & Loeb to investigate, and Deloitte to assist, claims that its financial statements are fraudulent and its CEO has been embezzling.  These accusations were first made by analysts at Muddy Waters and were supported by others, such as the chinesecompanyanalyst.com.  Promoters of the stock, such as Rick Pearson and Eric Jackson writing for the street.com, have defended the company.
       This article raises additional questions for Loeb & Loeb and Deloitte for their investigation. These questions are based solely on the information presented by ONP on its website and in its filings with the SEC. ONP claims to manufacture and sell paper. ONP claims rapid growth, more than tripling its revenue from $30.6 million to $102.1 million and more than quadrupling its net profit, from $3.2 million to $12.7 million between 2006 and 2009. ONP claims this growth was made possible, in part, by a team of 37 R&D professionals making technological advances improving the efficiencies of production and the quality of paper produced.
    How does ONP square these claims with its SEC reports that it has spent very little on R&D, has reported no intellectual property assets, has reported no increase in the number of its employees, and has spent virtually nothing on advertising and promotion costs?
    R&D:
                    How Did ONP Get a High Quality 37 Member R&D Department for Less Than $31,000 a Year?
                    ONP’s SEC filings reveal the following expenses for R&D:
    Year                       Expenses
    2007                       $25,531                
    2008                       $30,130
    2009                       $30,546
     
                    Why Does ONP Have No Intellectual Property Assets?
     
                    ONP’s website claims the advantages of intellectual property rights and advanced technology.    However, ONP’s SEC filings show that no intellectual property rights are listed as assets on its balance sheets and that is has no intellectual property rights other than 1 trademark on its name.   
     
    Growth
     
    How Has ONP Grown While Apparently Cutting Its Employees from 893 to 600?
    ONP’s revenue and net profit growth obtained from its website and SEC filings:
     
                    Revenue                              Net Profit
     2004       17.9 mil                 1.7 Mil
     2005       22.8 mil                 2.5 mil
                    2006       30.6 mil                 3.2 mil
                    2007       39.7 mil                 4.1 mil
                    2008       65.2 mil                 8.8 mil
                    2009       102.1 mil              12.7 mil
     
                    The type of rapid growth claimed by ONP would normally require a substantial increase in employees with additional factory workers necessary for the increased paper production, additional sales representatives needed to expand sales, and additional administrative staff to handle the growing duties.
     
                    An old video on ONP’s website claims 893 employees, while ONP reported only 600 employees to the SEC as of March 26, 2010. The video appears dated because it uses ONP’s old ticker symbol, OPAI, and the financial data it provides ends in 2006. The video therefore appears to be created sometime in approximately 2007 or 2008. 
     
                    If this is correct, it is unclear how ONP could decrease its employees by almost a third, reducing them from 893 to 600, while at the same time greatly increasing production, revenue and net profit.   
                    From March of 2009 to March of 2010, How Did ONP Increase Production and Sales, as Well as Add a Production Facility, Without Increasing Its Employee Count?
     
                    ONP claims it did not grow its employees from March 24, 2009 to March 26, 2010, despite claiming a 56% increase in revenue in 2009 and adding a new production facility. In its SEC filings, ONP reported 600 employees as of March 26, 2010 and reported the same number, 600, as of March 24, 2009. During that time, ONP claimed that it started a new production facility on March 10, 2010, producing digital photo paper which it claims to have sold over 22 tons of by March 30, 2010.
     
    It is unclear how ONP could have a 56% increase in revenue and profit and the addition of another production facility without increasing its employee count. Normally, more factory workers would be required both to increase production and for the new production facility, more administrative help would be needed for the associated increase in work, and more sales representatives would be needed, particularly given the turnover in its top ten customers as shown in its SEC filings.
     
                    How Did ONP Grow Sales While Spending Virtually Nothing on Advertising & Promotion?
                    ONP claims it has more than tripled sales while incurring virtually no advertising and promotion costs.   The following is the data reported by ONP regarding spending on advertising and promotion costs in their 10ks filed with the SEC:      
    Year                       Amount Reported Incurring in Advertising and Promotion Expenses
     
                    2006                       $1068
                    2007                       $179 (from 2007 10k) or $0.00 (from 2008 10k)
                    2008                       $216
                    2009                       $439
     
    Addition Concern: How Do You Inadvertently Report Inadequate Internal Financial Controls?
     
                    In an SEC filing in 2008, ONP reported that it had inadequate internal financial controls, stating that it would upgrade financial controls. The SEC inquired what the problems were and what was done about them. The new CFO, an accountant in California named Winston Yen, replied that the disclosure of inadequate internal financial controls was inadvertent and revised the reporting to say that the internal financial controls were adequate.    
                                   
    Conclusion:
                   
                    In summary, Loeb & Loeb are left with some interesting question to investigate, such as : 
    How can ONP square its claims of rapidly increasing production and sales without increasing its employees to facilitate production, sales and the associated administrative work? 
    How can ONP claim advanced technology and intellectual property rights from a team of 37 R&D professionals with comprehensive R&D facilities while it reports to the SEC R&D incurring expenses of less than $32,000 a year for R&D and reporting no intellectual property assets? 
    How has ONP been able to achieve its claimed growth rate while incurring less than $1,000 a year on advertising and promotions costs? 
    How did ONP inadvertently report inadequate internal financial controls?
                  





    Disclosure: No current position. Was long prior to the Muddy Waters Report. Was short thereafter. Currently no position.
    Themes: paper, fraud, china Stocks: ONP
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Comments (28)
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  • Waldo Mushman
    , contributor
    Comments (379) | Send Message
     
    Another voice joins the chorus. It is great to see well thought out opinions, especially when they agree with mine. It is also a treat to see unique ideas expressed so well.

     

    Hopefully you will have the time and interest to involve yourself in some of the other skunk holes. To repeat the investment merit of shorting these stocks, I like to think of the short side as having access to the MRI's of a terminal patient. Either the reality of making a profit, the long arm of the law, or general market awareness of the "dead stock walking" will eventually crush the price. When the target price is in the pennies and you can arrive at a metaphysical certainty that the company is doomed, then the speculation becomes a sure thing (given adequate time). Use some leverage on the way down and there are not many stock plays that equal the risk reward equation.

     

    Good luck and thanks for the contribution to ONP's fate.

     

    John
    6 Jul 2010, 10:30 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » One correction - the video said 863 employees, not 893 employees. I don't think that changes the questions and concerns.
    9 Jul 2010, 03:39 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    It's not unusual for a company to increase sales while reducing headcount. Companies often become more efficient as they grow. I don't see this as an indication of fraud, but it is certainly a reasonable question to pose to management. From 2005 to 2009 International Paper increased revenue from 21.7 bil to 23.3 bil while headcount fell from 68700 to 56100.

     

    As far as R&D goes, it can be outsourced but it would be misleading to claim the employees are part of full-time staff. Again, not an indication that the entire operation is a fraud but something worth questioning management about. Maybe a little too aggressive with the marketing hype, but improving efficiencies of production are not hard to achieve with a new manufacturing operation as they move further along the learning curve of production. I was involved in a small manufacturing business for several years and production efficiencies can improve dramatically over time.
    4 Aug 2010, 01:27 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35:
    Not sure where you get your data from. As of December 31, 2005, International Paper had 68,700 employees and 24 billion in net sales. As of December 31, 2009, International Paper had 56,100 employees and 23 billion in net revenue. So, number of employees fell and revenue fell. If you were talking about other specific dates, please give me those. (by the way, since you are researching intenrational paper - did you know they have a cardboard box facility in the city of Boading in Hebei province? They make the whole cardboard box, not just the corrugated paper. they failed to list IP as one of their competitors. So much for Orient Paper's location advantage.)
    However, you are missing the big picture. Of course, it is possible to decrease employees and increase revenue. However, when you see the size of the decrease in employees, almost 30%, and the size of the increase in claimed paper production, revenue and net profit (revenue tripling and net profit quadrupling from 2006), it is very unlikely unless you have some excellent explanation. Usually, the explanation is well known to all. In this case, I don't see how it is possible at all considering the business.
    ONP made no representations that R&D was outsourced. Theoretically, R&D could be outsourced, but it wasn't reported in this case, so that explanation holds no water.
    Orient Paper maybe a little too aggressive with marketing hype? That may be an understatement. How about this press release by Orient Paper in 2008:
    "Orient Paper inc.: Orient Paper Inc.: one of China's largest paper manufacturers, plans to build a new paper mill in Baoding, Hebei, in the second half of 2008, with an annual production of 1.2 million tons. The 2-million-square- metre facility will produce mainly corrugated paper, offset paper and writing paper. Zhenyong Liu, CEO of Orient Paper, said: "It is going to be a very large facility that will enable us to compete with the biggest paper businesses in China, as well as the rest of the world." see line at www.pulpandpapercanada....
    ONP never got around mentioning what happend to that project. Oh sorry, Orient Paper Inc.'s ticker symbol then was OPAI. Then it changed to ORNP.
    There are plenty of interesting press releases like that with Orient Paper Inc. with plans that never materialized. See if you can find them.
    4 Aug 2010, 01:56 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    yahoo.brand.edgar-onli...

     

    The numbers are always more dramatic with a small company.
    4 Aug 2010, 02:41 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    I guess your calls to investor relations did not resolve these issues. I'm wondering if there was a logical explanation you would still hang on to your short position?
    4 Aug 2010, 02:50 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drJohn:
    You have to read those footnotes. Look at the 2006 10k and you will see 24 billion in revenue. In the 2007 10k you cite, they changed the net revenues for 2006, noting: "certin prior year amounts have been reclassified for comparative purposes to conform to current year presentation of discontinued operations."
    Sorry, being a smaller company doesn't explain anything.
    4 Aug 2010, 02:58 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    I hope your short position is relatively small. The reason I say this is because the thrust of your argument seems to be about the sales growth and the concurrent reduction in headcount and the R&D expenses. Based on the frequency and length of your posts you seem to be very emotionally connected to this story which implies a large financial commitment. If you haven't had discussions with management regarding these questions you may be hyping them up in your own mind more than they're worth. After all when you're dealing with very small companies early in their lifecycle, proportionality of numbers can change dramatically due to perfectly reasonable explanations. I'm not making the case that we should all go out and buy a boatload of stock but neither would I be heavily short unless you've done a lot more due diligence than it sounds like. At the very least you should have had conversations with management discussing the issues you've brought up.
    4 Aug 2010, 03:15 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn:
    You seem to just make assumptions that appear to me to be completely unwarranted, certainly I can verify they are about me, my emotions, and what i have or have not done. You provide absolutely no information whatsoever that is pertinent to the analysis of ONP.
    For example, I certainly have had discussions with management. I certainly haven't posted a fraction of the information I have obtained in researching ONP.
    I am somewhat surprised you just didn't apologize about your errors on International Paper's revenue, failing to read and interpret the footnote. I am even more surprised that you are deeming to provide me investment advice, which I have not solicited from you.
    I certainly don't advise anyone to take any action regarding ONP based on myself or anyone else. I advise them to do their own work and due dilligence, come to their own conclusions and make their own investment decisions.
    When you have actually some due diligence on ONP, I would be interested in your overall view.
    In the meantime, when you actually have some facts or evidence that contradicts mine or my view, I would be very happy to hear them (hopefully not a reiteration of all the information out there already).
    Otherwise, I will consider the advice worth what I paid for it.

     

    4 Aug 2010, 03:26 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw,

     

    Lets not play games. If I want to spend the time looking for companies that have increased their sales while reducing headcount I can, but we already know that it happens. I need a lot more than what you've posted to convince me that there's fraud here. I've run 2 small businesses and I think size does matter. Things can change dramatically for a small business in transition that will seem out of proportion to what you'd expect when making comparisons to major corporations. If you don't understand that then you need to do more homework. I would not bet the farm on what looks like shaky research.
    4 Aug 2010, 03:29 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    You seem to be very willing to post information and opinion about ONP. So I'd be very interested in what management had to say about your concerns regarding sales increasing while reducing headcount. That is if you care to share that information. It could go a long way to improving the case you've made that this company is a fraud.
    4 Aug 2010, 03:35 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35:
    I hihgly doubt you can find one company, particularly a manufacturing company and certainly not a paper manufacturing company, that reduced their headcount more than 30% and more than tripled their revenue and more than quadrupled their revenue in the space of three years. If you can, I bet the explanation will be apparent or easy to figure out.
    I have done my research. It is a great deal more than what I have posted here. It appears that you haven't done yours and I mean, have you done any research at all on ONP? When you have, let me know. Just saying it is a small company doesn't explain anything. It doesn't provide a single bit of fact or evidence to support that ONP is telling the truth.
    Why don't you call management yourself and ask them? The CFO is Winston Yen. He lives in Soutthern California and has an accounting office here. He was working only part time as the CFO and recently became fulltime. He appears to act more as a public relations or investor relations role than CFO. He appears to not to know much about the business. Management had no explanation, just start speaking double speak and talking about other things.

     

    4 Aug 2010, 04:29 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw,

     

    I agree that it would be difficult to find a major manufacturer that increased sales by 30% while reducing headcount but as I said ONP is not a major manufacturer.

     

    None of the information that you post is evidence of fraud, just a smoking gun. I reiterate, I would not bet the farm on such shaky research. If Yen is not well informed about the business then that is pretty much a wasted call. It only means that you haven't found a reasonable explanation not that one doesn't exist. I believe that you have done a lot of research, certainly more than I have, but it seems to me that all you've really found is the smoking gun. If you're comfortable placing a significant bet based on that, then good luck. There's plenty of "information" on both sides of the argument to make any position in ONP questionable at this point.
    4 Aug 2010, 06:19 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Drjohn35:
    You are changing my words. I didn't say major manufacturer, although ONP is claiming revenue of over 100 million for paper. I said more than tripling sales and reducing head count by over 30%. I don't think you will find it with a major, medium, or minor manufacturer, and if you do, it will likely not be in paper and we will find either an apparent or easy to find explanation.
    I guess fraud doesn't mean fraud. A false representation that one has comprehensive research facilities when one doesn't is not fraud? A false representation that one has a 37 member R&D team when one doesn't have one is not fraud?
    You are entitled to your opinion. I certainly have done a great deal of research. I simply don't believe you have any basis to call it shaky. I have look at all ONP's SEC filings and their website. Those filings and that website are to me filings that you only find with a fraud, not with any legitimate company. I have studied paper mills and paper manufacturing, including viewing videos and pictures of numerous paper mills and manufactureres. I have reviewed the documentation and specifications required for not only the paper equipment but also the machinery and process for all phases of a paper mill. To me, in my review, Orient Paper does not appear to be close to be able to be doing what it claims. You can speculate all you want about some possibility or reasonably explanation but if I see a very thin person that is under 5 feet tall, i am very confident in forming an opinion that they weigh under 300 pounds. You could dog me all you want with theoretical arguments and the possibility of reasonable explanations for why she weighs over 300 lbs. You may even be right. However, you would not convince me as in my experience very thin people under 5 feet tall don't weight over 300 lbs.
    When you come up with evidence, facts and sound reasoning therefrom that Orient Paper Inc. is making the revenue it claims, then I will be all ears to listen to see if I am somehow wrong. But in the meantime, you are whistling into the wind with theoretical arguments and same vague notion of the possibility of some reasonable explanation.
    I have found any information that is convincing to me that Orient Paper's reports are true.
    5 Aug 2010, 12:22 AM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    >When you come up with evidence, facts and sound reasoning therefrom that Orient Paper Inc. is making the revenue it claims, then I will be all ears to listen to see if I am somehow wrong.

     

    The burden of proof is on the accuser...you've raised suspicions but have proved nothing and you are asking me to disprove a negative. The current stock price reflects the inconsistencies that MW has reported. You believe inconsistencies prove fraud. I don't.
    Put another way, when I weigh everything that I've read and seen, both positive and negative regarding ONP, the risk/reward for shorting a stock at this level doesn't interest me.
    5 Aug 2010, 09:29 AM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35;
    I am certainly not suggesting you or anyone else short this stock. And, certainly don't do anything based on anything I have said. For any investment decision, do your own due diligence and work and make your own conclusions.
    It appears that you haven't done the due diligence and work to make any investment decision on ONP. I respect that. But it also makes your conclusory views not particularly worthwhile.
    I have no burden of proof whatsoever. I am not an accuser, I am just bringing to light facts, evidence, and, I beileve, sound reasoning therefrom. Particularly as their appears to be no end to people pumping this stock with misinfomration. My articles are based on ONP's representations in their SEC filngs and websites and the videos of their facilities by their promoters. It is not based on ONP, not on me or anyone else.
    I believe I see the reality of the situation and I think you are making conclusions by imagining in your mind that there could be reasonable explanations and theoretical possibilities without having done the work necessary to reach any opinion worth giving. I think Orient Paper has the duty of establishing that there revenue is correct. i think the fact that they haven't speaks volumes.
    You are certainly entitled to your opinion.
    My goal here is explorative. I am hoping that others will provide additional facts and evidence and sound reasoning therefrom, whether consistent or contradictory to my view, so that more infomration comes to light.
    The bottom line is that you have just your conclusions, without presenting any facts, evidence or support therefrom. Conclusory statements are not particular helpful or informative.
    5 Aug 2010, 10:09 AM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    Like many I'm waiting for the conclusions of the audit. You and others have raised questions but seem to have jumped to the conclusion of massive fraud before the questions have been answered. That's your prerogative as is your decision to be short the stock. I'm sorry I don't have the time to do intensive research for this stock, but in my opinion it would involve more than just looking at sec filings. At this point a trip to China where one could more thoroughly investigate the operations would be needed. I'm not about to do that. There are too many other stocks that I'm interested in. Good luck.
    6 Aug 2010, 10:02 AM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35:
    Fair enough. There are two videos of the facilities of Orient Paper by promoters of the stock that you can view. The video by Doug at wallstreetmedia.com is purported to be a complete view of the entire facilities.
    We can agree to disagree whether I've jumped to conclusions or not.
    Good luck to you as well.
    6 Aug 2010, 11:11 AM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw,

     

    Not to belabor this point regarding headcount but onp's revenue per employee is much lower than other paper companies. It's conceivable that they're overstaffed and were even more overstaffed when the company's revenue was much smaller. This would not be too surprising given the low cost of labor and would explain how revenue could grow while headcount declined.
    6 Aug 2010, 03:57 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35
    No, that wouldn't explain anything. When you provide some real analysis based on some real information, I will provide you the information and analysis to show why that makes no sense.
    6 Aug 2010, 06:27 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw
    That wouldn't explain anything? ONP has about 2-3 times the number of employees per dollar of revenue compared to other paper companies. If you can't come up with an explanation I understand.
    9 Aug 2010, 01:28 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw,
    I'm sorry to say that for all the posting that you've done you haven't provided any analysis at all.
    9 Aug 2010, 01:43 PM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35:
    let me see if I can summarize for you in one sentence as simply as possible: Orient Paper inc from their own representations in SEC filings, press releases, website(s), etc. - reduced number of different types of paper they sold, reduced number of manufacturing facilities, reduced number of production lines, reduced number of employees, substantially reduced the property they lease and/or own for their operations, reduced the number of customers AND they are claiming during the same period of time to have tripled revenue and quadrupled net profit - I don't think so. But if you think so, more power to you. Good luck to you!
    9 Aug 2010, 11:07 PM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    >Normally, more factory workers would be required both to increase production and for the new production facility

     

    Yes normally, except if you're already overstaffed.
    10 Aug 2010, 11:10 AM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw, I think you mis-read my earlier comment. I said, " If you can't come up with an explanation I understand." meaning, I understand if you can't come up with an explanation.
    10 Aug 2010, 11:15 AM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35:
    There is no reason to think that Orient Paper is overstaffed at all. ONP never claimed it was overstaffed. ONP has never stated that reducing staff has been a factor at all.
    Paper manufacturing is a capital intensive business and labor is normally a small % of the costs, 4-8%. Why? because machinery does most of the work. How about at ONP? Orient Paper lacks the automated process that is done by modern machinery because they don't have it. Instaed, they have people doing work that would normally be done by machines (at a more efficient and, over time, cheaper rate). If Orient Paper is producing less revenue per employee, as you claim, that is the most likely explanation why. Additionally, Orient Paper producing less revenue per employee, as you state, would be another poor sign regardings its ability to compete or to grow the revenue and have the margins that it claims.
    10 Aug 2010, 11:19 AM Reply Like
  • drjohn35
    , contributor
    Comments (22) | Send Message
     
    seasaw, There's no reason to believe that they can't expand production without increasing headcount when the numbers show that they're already overstaffed. You choose to ignore anything that doesn't support your argument (confirmation bias). As workers become more proficient in the manufacturing process their production increases. I used to run a factory and I know for a fact that production per employee can increase dramatically over time. So for me it is not hard to fathom how the same number of employees can produce more product. This seems to be one of the key points of your thesis and I think your premise is wrong.

     

    Also Eric Jackson wrote in an article a few weeks ago:
    "In addition, we have checked ONP's power consumption usage last year and this year against the cost of power for industrial users in Hebei Province. The company's power usage for steam consumption matches its output. "
    Wouldn't you consider this a piece of evidence that supports the company's production claims?
    10 Aug 2010, 11:43 AM Reply Like
  • Business Economics Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (2565) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » drjohn35:

     

    How is that big ONP investment doing? LOL!
    12 Apr 2013, 02:34 AM Reply Like
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