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I invest in U.S.-listed Chinese companies. My website is at www.chinesecompanyanalyst.com. I take long and short positions in the public securities of companies that I discuss on Seeking Alpha. Although I choose to remain anonymous, I provide full disclosure of my positions at the time of the... More
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  • CMFO and Xianghe: A Dubious Acquisition 17 comments
    Jun 4, 2010 8:49 AM | about stocks: CMFO, CSKI, LIWA, YUII

    This article discusses a questionable acquisition that China Marine Food made in January 2010 that was used to justify a $30mm equity capital raise.

    As I wrote in my last post, the financial statements that CMFO files with the SEC are substantially different from the audited financial statements that it files with the Chinese government. Whereas companies like YUII, FUQI and SOLF have matching financials when comparing US and Chinese audited financial statements, CMFO’s revenue in its Chinese filings for 2008 were 85% lower than in its SEC filings. Other financial line items were smaller by similar orders of magnitude.

    The company is falsifying one set of financial statements – that’s an obvious fact. The question facing investors is whether CMFO is falsifying the SAIC financials that they file to seven branches of their own government, or whether they’re falsifying the SEC financials that they used to raise $30mm of cash from U.S. investors in January 2010.

    In this article, I explain why an acquisition that the company made in January 2010 provides strong evidence that CMFO is engaged in fraudulent activities. Specifically, I believe that the company which CMFO acquired is fraudulent itself.
     

    A Questionable Acquisition

    In January, CMFO raised equity capital partly to fund an acquisition of Shishi Xianghe Food Science and Technology Co., Ltd. (“Xianghe”). Xianghe is a manufacturer of algae-based soft drinks. The purchase price was $27.8mm.

    Here is the description of Xianghe’s product:

    “Xianghe is a Fujian based manufacturer of the branded Hi-Power algae-based soft drinks. Hi-Power was developed by the Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences in coordination with the founder, Qiu Shang Jing. Hi-Power is marketed as a high-protein content drink, low in calories and fat, which provides the consumers a combination of immune system benefits, improved digestion and reductions in hyperglycemia and hypertension. Hi-Power’s target market focuses on health conscious consumers in China’s fast-growing beverage market.”

    Here is a link to an informative 8k dated March 16, 2010 about the Xianghe acquisition. Most of the following discussion is disclosed in this 8K. In this link, we discuss specifically where in the 8K we get supporting material for the statements we make below.

    From the 8k, we learn that Xianghe’s product actually originated in January 2009, when Qiu Shang Jing paid Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute (YSFRI) $8,776 for “know-how” regarding the development of an algae-based drink. To repeat, Xianghe basically began 1.5 years ago, when Mr. Qiu purchased “know-how” on how to make a certain algae-based drink for eight thousand seven hundred and seventy six dollars.

    In April 2009, Mr. Qiu leased office space from CMFO (CMFO waived the rent beginning in July) to set up his new algae-drink company. On July 28, 2009, Mr. Qiu incorporated Xianghe as a legal entity with $43,979 (that’s forty three thousand, nine hundred and seventy-nine dollars). On October 2009, Mr. Qiu contributed an additional $689,504 for a total registered capital of $733,483.

    Xianghe was then purchased by CMFO for $27.8mm in November 2009, through a 2-step acquisition that was completed in January 2010.

    I’ll repeat the key points. Xianghe began when Mr. Qiu bought “know-how” regarding how to make an algae-based beverage for ~$9k in January 2009. Over the following 9 months, Mr. Qiu contributed an additional ~$733k (with 90% of that in October, one month before the acquisition).

    In November, CMFO purchased 80% of Xianghe for $27.8mm.

    Based on my calculations, Mr. Qiu achieved a 139,160% annualized return on his investment in the algae drink.

    For the avoidance of doubt, here is a graphic representation of what happened:



    I find it extremely implausible that a company essentially begun in January 2009 and that received less than $750k of capital in its first 11 months of operation (with 90% of that in the 10th month) would be worth $28mm at the end of the 11th month, unless it had a truly unique patent or technology. Xianghe is a maker of an algae-based beverage. I doubt that this qualifies as a sufficiently unique product that’s worth $28mm purely because of the inherent attractiveness of the product.

    Equally absurd is the fact that the “know-how” which Mr. Qiu purchased for $9k is now valued on CMFO’s balance sheet at $23.5mm.

    Incidentally, Li Xiaochuan is “the researcher” of YSFRI and also an independent director of CMFO.

    More Dubious Financial Statements

    Xianghe was begun when “know-how” was purchased in January 2009 for $9k. The company wasn’t actually incorporated until July 28, 2009.

    So one would think that Xianghe would have negligible revenue and profit in its first 5 months of operations, correct?

    Not according to Xianghe’s financial statements. Keep in mind that Xianghe was audited by CMFO’s same poorly qualified auditor: ZYCPA Company Ltd. ZYCPA, according to its website, has 2 partners and 25 personnel. It received its PCAOB designation in December 2008.

    Between July 28, 2009 and December 31, 2009, Xianghe claims to have generated $7.6mm in revenue, $3.0mm in gross profit, $1.7mm of net profit and $1.2mm of cash flow of operations.

    With approximately $742k of equity capital (comprised of $9k for know-how in January 2009, $44k of cash contribution on July 28, 2009 and $689k of cash contribution on October 8, 2009), Xianghe was somehow able to generate $7.6mm of revenue and $1.2mm of cash flow from operations in its first 5 months of operations, from selling an algae-based beverage.

    Again, I'll demonstrate my points with a graphical representation:



    Conclusion

    The financial statements for Xianghe provided in the 8K that is “audited” by ZYCPA appear to be fraudulent. The Xianghe story is implausible, and any investors who think otherwise simply didn’t take the time to read the March 8K. Xianghe does exist and does make algae-based drinks. But I believe that it is not worth remotely close to $28mm and it did not generate remotely close to $7mm of real revenue in its first 5 months of operations. I think that Xianghe's numbers, like those of CMFO, are fabricated.

    The acquisition of Xianghe served as a way for the creators of CMFO to justify a $30mm equity capital raise in January 2010. I believe that the vast majority of the $28mm that was used to purchase Xianghe was either redirected to personal bank accounts or used for some other dubious purpose.
     

    Disclosure:

    At the time of writing, I and affiliated entities have a short position in CMFO and a long position in YUII. I intend to trade in these securities subsequent to this post. I may also initiate positions in other stocks mentioned in this article, including CSKI and LIWA.

    In no part of this post do I attempt to provide false or misleading information. All facts presented in this post are true to the best of my knowledge.  All opinions presented on this website are my own and accurately reflect my actual opinion on the relevant subject being discussed. To the extent you believe I have provided false or misleading information, please list your concerns in the comments section and I will address them.


    Stocks: CMFO, CSKI, LIWA, YUII
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Comments (17)
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  • Waldo Mushman
    , contributor
    Comments (397) | Send Message
     
    Excellent work. Thanks for the reference in your earlier posts to some of the stuff I have previously done. Nice to be noticed.

     

    I am only starting to look at this piece of work thanks to your efforts; but there are 2 items that I would like to bring to your attention. A capital contribution does not have to be in cash. The Chinese allow a company to start with cash infusions as low as 15% of the Registered Capital. In other words the Oct 09 Capital Contribution was most likely ~$100,000 cash and a promise to provide the balance of the capital within the statutory time limits. (3 years I think)

     

    The second issue is that the fictional revenue and earnings have to be spent. The only assets you can buy with fictional earnings are equally fictional assets. It is implausible for a company with $30mm in cash to float a secondary asking for expansion money. CMFO most likely did not actually pay the money discussed. They made a deal at a far lower price but are able to show a plausible (barely) use for the fictional profits. They have also created an asset on the books and another opaque (fictional) revenue source.

     

    Keep up the good work.

     

    John
    4 Jun 2010, 09:46 AM Reply Like
  • pmcmullen100
    , contributor
    Comments (93) | Send Message
     
    Did you check the 2009 SAIC filings to confirm that they match the 2009 SEC filings? Or have you abandoned your previous allegations because the company rectified the situation? If so, where's the apology you promised on the Yahoo boards?

     

    By the way, several members of the auditing firm you attack are from Big 4 firms. Could CMFO use a bigger auditor? Yes. But you have absolutely no basis for smearing the one they have, other than it's an easy ad hominem attack.

     

    Why don't you disclose your name and affiliations, by the way? Afraid WE WILL DO SOME RESEARCH ON YOU? Funny how it's easy to seem credible when no one get you in their sights.
    4 Jun 2010, 09:47 AM Reply Like
  • pmcmullen100
    , contributor
    Comments (93) | Send Message
     
    Waldo, glad to see you've joined Team Short. Like your "name."
    4 Jun 2010, 10:10 AM Reply Like
  • pmcmullen100
    , contributor
    Comments (93) | Send Message
     
    Before you give this any credence, might want to review this exchange. You'll get a sense of how desperate out Ghost analyst is getting.

     

    messages.finance.yahoo...

     

    Note that the Ghost had no idea the Xianghe acquisition even existed when he wrote his first article, where he wondered what CMFO had spent its proceeds from a share offering on. Um, they spent it on this acquisition. You might want to consider the Ghost's lack of understanding of this company, its history or any of its businesses before swallowing his "analysis."
    4 Jun 2010, 01:34 PM Reply Like
  • Chinese Company Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (136) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks Pmcmullen100 for the link, I'd also encourage readers to read through the yahoo message boards on CMFO. There's been some good discussion there. The best are probably the long threads with 20+ post - they provide some good debate on CMFO and its Xianghe acquisition.

     

    messages.finance.yahoo...
    4 Jun 2010, 02:34 PM Reply Like
  • Chimin Sang
    , contributor
    Comments (291) | Send Message
     
    Your link is broken, CCA.

     

    Thanks for pointing out to the 8-K, which is quite self-explanary. For people who are not reading it, they don't deserve any explanation.

     

    It is amazing how this document is almost self-incriminating. I can hear the sound when my jaw dropped to the floor. LOL.
    4 Jun 2010, 08:38 PM Reply Like
  • Chinese Company Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (136) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Sorry about that, I have trouble with Seeking Alpha links sometimes. It was just a general link to the yahoo message boards on CMFO...
    5 Jun 2010, 07:17 PM Reply Like
  • pmcmullen100
    , contributor
    Comments (93) | Send Message
     
    Our Ghost short seller wants us to ignore his total lack of track record (that anyone could verify) and experience with any industry, much less CMFO's industry, and instead focus on "the facts" and "common sense." So let's use a bit of common sense: if the acquisition was a scam, why would the 8K lays out all the detail of the "scam"? Why not try to hide it? The common sense conclusion is that while this is a related party transaction -- which the 8K DOES DISCLOSE -- it is not a fraudulent one.

     

    What does common sense tell us? That CMFO committed fraud and detailed it so completely in public filings that even our anonymous short-seller -- who didn't even know CMFO had MADE this acquisition a week ago when he wrote his first article (now abandoned) -- could piece it together? Or that this transaction, included the related-party nature, was so fully disclosed because it was legitimate? The answer is obvious. Or at least obvious to anyone without an agenda and an increasingly expensive short position.
    5 Jun 2010, 05:06 PM Reply Like
  • Chinese Company Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (136) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » You have every right to develop your own interpretation of the Xianghe acquisition. The company has laid out the facts and chronology of the acquisition and it's up to investors to make their own inferences from the details.

     

    You can draw your conclusion that it was merely a $28mm acquisition where CMFO overpaid by $27mm. Or that it's believable that an algae-drink company can generate annualized revenue of $17.7mm based on its first 5 months of operations, after receiving $53k of startup capital, and $690k of secondary capital in its 3rd month of operations. Or that an "algae-based drink know-how" that cost $9k to acquire in January 2009 deserves to be valued on CMFO's books at 23.5mm today.

     

    I instead draw the conclusion that the Xianghe numbers are fabricated. Given that the company's accounting firm is as unreputable as they come, this isn't hard at all to believe. I believe that Xianghe merely served as an excuse to justify a $30mm capital raise that was pocketed by CMFO insiders or used for other dubious purposes.

     

    The investing community can decide which is the more believable story.

     

    There's nothing expensive about my short - the short interest is quite low and the borrow is very cheap right now.

     

    Disclosure: short CMFO
    5 Jun 2010, 07:10 PM Reply Like
  • Chimin Sang
    , contributor
    Comments (291) | Send Message
     
    pmc,

     

    I read the 8-K independently and drew the same conclusion that CCA did. I am more than certain that either you haven't read it or you are completely impotent in reading financial statements and the attached annotations.

     

    For anyone who has some working knowledge of accounting, this 8-K just reads shocking, like watching the dumbest thieves on TV.

     

    My bet against you is on.

     

    Disclosure: Short CMFO.
    5 Jun 2010, 08:20 PM Reply Like
  • dswingle
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
     
    Thanks very interesting, I'm not short CMFO yet, but thankfully no longer long either.
    6 Jun 2010, 11:18 AM Reply Like
  • pmcmullen100
    , contributor
    Comments (93) | Send Message
     
    I guess all the analysts (who aren't anonymous, like our Ghost "CCA", and actually have investing experience and a track record we can judge) just failed to read the 8K. Or they are as "ignorant" of investing as I am. How lucky that our anonymous short seller was able to read the "facts" and reach this enlightened conclusion. Only took the better part of a year too...

     

    (I know, our Ghost doesn't trust analysts, he only trusts himself. I guess I think a track record you can measure is important when making investing decisions based on someone else's conclusions, but I'm picky that way.)

     

    We all agree on one point: the market will be the ultimate arbiter of whether our Ghost friend's allegations are accurate. Until then, I'll stay comfortably long.
    6 Jun 2010, 05:42 PM Reply Like
  • Chinese Company Analyst
    , contributor
    Comments (136) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Speaking of analysts, Brean Murray needs to do a better job differentiating between the frauds and real companies in the Chinese smallcap universe. I understand that they want to generate investment banking revenue, and that PIPES and secondary offerings for fraudulent Chinese RTOs are a terrific and growing area to earn investment banking fees. But there's a difference between providing investment banking services to a fraudulent company and having buy recommendations on a fraudulent company.

     

    Brean Murray, we all make mistakes. Differentiating between real and fraudulent Chinese RTO smallcaps is a very difficult task. I applaud you for tackling this space and trying to provide capital to small Chinese companies. And as you try to help investors cross this minefield, you're going to occasionally step on some landmines. CMFO is one of those landmines. Many investors overlooked the March 16 8K, which clearly lays out in stark terms how fraudulent Xianghe and CMFO actually are. It's excusable that you also overlooked the 8K. Research analysts are overworked and underpaid, and are subject to pressure from investment bankers to hype companies that provide investment banking revenue.

     

    But over the next few weeks, if not months, increasing scrutiny is going to be given to the Xianghe acquisition and the issue of CMFO being a fraudulent company. This will not be a case of some anonymous internet analyst writing two posts, and then all being forgotten. As the issue gets broader exposure, you'll be faced with two choices: either stand by your Buy recommendation or to suspend coverage on CMFO.

     

    It's a tough decision. I wish good luck to the Brean Murray analyst and/or research committee that decide how to respond to the allegations. Naturally, I think that Brean Murray should do the right thing and suspend coverage. But I'm short the stock, and so am obviously biased in my opinion.

     

    Disclosure: short CMFO
    6 Jun 2010, 10:08 PM Reply Like
  • ryankore
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
     
    OMG!!!! I HAVE TO SELL NOW ALL MY SHARES NOW
    15 Jun 2010, 12:34 AM Reply Like
  • duediligence
    , contributor
    Comments (39) | Send Message
     
    Please read the investment and revenue time line from Chinese Company Analyst carefully. The story is implausible even with outsourcing production.
    15 Jun 2010, 12:55 PM Reply Like
  • ryankore
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
     
    you know though this is interesting for me, on one hand I own shares of cmfo and I of course want the price to rise. But, on the other hand as the price drops it becomes more attractive as a buy and I'm excited for this opportunity to purchase more. It's an awkward feeling ><
    15 Jun 2010, 04:43 PM Reply Like
  • duediligence
    , contributor
    Comments (39) | Send Message
     
    Please read the net receivable in the CMFO balance sheet. It jumped from two weeks worth of sale ($4.8 millions) in 2008 to nearly twenty weeks of sale (45 millions). How did CMFO pay for operation without receiving payments for its shipments?
    22 Jun 2010, 03:54 PM Reply Like
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