As we’ve been searching for where Wirecard’s MCA business is (and the bulk of it looks not to be in Brazil, Turkey or Europe), we’ve come across a number of details that have made us take a second look at certain aspects of the business. There are some very odd coincidences and complicated relationships between Wirecard, its current and former executives, and third-party companies, many of which are suspicious in themselves, and, when taken together, raise yet more questions.
A company in Singapore, oCap Management, formerly called Senjo Trading, whose MD, Carlos Haeuser worked for 13 years at Wirecard as a senior executive, started claiming to offer merchant cash advance in Singapore in November 2018 at around the same time it received €115M ($131M) of funding from an unknown third party. (Coincidentally, this is also the time when Wirecard started talking about MCA). By the end of December 2018, €113M of these funds had been lent out by oCap, without any sales people and without any advertising spend, and with distribution expenses of just $38K.
Until 2017, oCap was involved in trade financing and ship management, but also referenced etrade finance and blockchain technology on their website. However with Carlos’ arrival, and promotion to MD on the 9th of November 2018, the business shifted track to offer MCA. Their level of success in just one month seems remarkable considering that, despite claiming to have facilitated $100M of loans in 2017 they had zero revenues in 2017 from interest income. Rather, in 2017 all revenues – on the basis of their audited accounts – were derived from ship management fees.
Following the €115M loan in late 2018, and in just 6 weeks, oCap somehow lent all that of money onwards in EUR, USD and GBP denominated loans from Singapore.
Furthermore in 1Q19, when Wirecard’s MCA program grew further to €400M, oCap formed a Luxembourg subsidiary that is described as “acquiring or assuming the risks associated with loans receivable”.
Why do we think this is interesting?
oCap has multiple close ties to Wirecard, making the timing of their MCA business launch interesting:
- oCap was formerly known as Senjo Trading. Wirecard lent €25M to Senjo Group, a related business, in May 2017. Senjo was also as being a material driver of Wirecard revenues, EBITDA and receivables.
- oCap’s CEO and MD, Carlos Haeuser had been a long-serving Wirecard executive, joining the firm in 2005 and promoted to EVP in 2010. He left the business in March 2018 to join oCap, although paperwork suggests there was some overlap between his time at Wirecard and oCap with his new appointment as director of oCap taking place on 5th March while he only officially left his previous roles as CEO of Wirecard Turkey and CEO of Wirecard Technologies on 15 March 2018 and 22 March 2018 respectively ().
Carlos Haeuser is the CEO of oCap, and was appointed a director on the 5th of March 2018.
On the 15th of March 2018 Carlos resigned as the Chairman of the board and MD of Wirecard Turkey (replaced as Chairman by Wirecard COO Jan Marsalek) (Source).
On the 22nd of March 2018, Carlos was removed as CEO of Wirecard Technolgoies Gmbh (Source).
- Of course, it’s also interesting that Turkey is where Wirecard has previously claimed to be doing significant volumes of MCA despite their audited financials showing nothing of the sort and worth remembering that MCA is illegal in Turkey.
- oCap has also had two auditor resignations so far in 2019. T Ravi, their auditor of 2016 and 2017 resigned in early February 2019 to be replaced by BDO, who resigned in July 2019 without signing the 2018 financials. They were replaced by the less well known OA Assurance who eventually signed the annual report in August 2019. Related party disclosures changed between the 2017 and 2018 accounts – perhaps this is why BDO did not sign the accounts?
While this could all be a coincidence, it is worth examining closely in light of the criminal “round-tripping” investigation that Wirecard is facing in Singapore, where the CAD is investigating Wirecard for allegedly moving money from its balance sheet to undisclosed related parties and then back as revenue, earlier in 2018 than the events described above. We think the CAD in Singapore should be aware of the suspicious timing and similarities of these events.
The FT has previously reported that Senjo (now oCap) had significant unpaid receivables at Wirecard and that a substantial portion of their revenues and EBITDA come from Senjo. It seems reasonable to conclude that Wirecard was the 3rd party that lent the €115M to Senjo. If any of this money has made it back to Wirecard to pay-off the receivables that are owed by Senjo/oCap – that would be round-tripping.
Wirecard claims that it is lending €370M via MCA. This number has fallen, since the previously stated €400M. They’ve also changed their statements regarding where this money is being lent, telling investors at the H1 results call that it’s now less than 1/3 in Brazil and Turkey. According to their CPO, it’s not in Europe. There aren’t a lot of places left it could be, and Wirecard refuses to disclose to investors where it is (contrary to Markus Braun’s statements re transparency).
Wirecard management told analysts and investors that they had no relationship with Ocap and that there had been no relationship with Carlos Haeuser since January 2018.
The accounts show a different story.
In November 2018, Ocap received an unsecured, euro-denominated €115.6M loan from an undisclosed party, which they managed to lend out entirely by year-end. Wirecard’s 2018 annual report states, when referring to merchant cash advance, “a volume of €115.6M was already earmarked for this purpose by powerful financing partners”. The newly filed WDAH reports show that Wirecard Asia borrowed from Wirecard Group in order to make an onward loan of €115.6M. A euro-denominated loan made in Singapore of the exact same amount as that received by a company with strong ties to Wirecard strongly suggests this is a loan to Ocap, contrary to management’s claims.
This report indicates that Wirecard has been untruthful in their communication with investors about a material transaction of >€100M.
Wirecard has misled investors about who this money was lent to, and they failed to disclose the fact that the loan appears to be a related-party transaction:
The Ocap CEO, Carlos Haeuser, was not only a long-standing executive of Wirecard, but his wife, Brigitte Axtner Haeuser is Head of Digital Sales for Wirecard and a named director of WDAH in Singapore in the 2018 annual report. In addition, Ocap/Senjo is an important client for Wirecard: in the Wirecard internal documents released by the FT, it is shown as the second largest customer of CardSystems Middle East (CME),.
It is also concerning that, within six weeks of making the loan, Wirecard made a €5M allowance for a potential loss. This stands out as an unusual allocation, particularly bearing in mind the relationship between Ocap and Wirecard directors. If Brigitte saw Ocap as such a credit risk, should WDAH have sanctioned lending the €115M to Ocap?
The loan was extended following the balance sheet date, with partial repayment of the loan extended until 2020. This would suggest the business is not doing as well as hoped. Were these late 4Q transactions an avenue to circulate money to CME and pay down the aged Senjo receivables referred to by the FT?
US Designates 6 More China-based Propaganda Outlets as Foreign Missions
The United States has designated six additional China-based propaganda outlets as foreign missions, the newest push to counter communist propaganda.
The State Department issued a new determination on Wednesday that designates the U.S. operations of Yicai lobal, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review, and Economic Daily as foreign missions.
“They are all substantially owned or effectively controlled by a foreign government. We’re not placing any restrictions on what these outlets can publish in the United States," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters during a news conference. "We simply want to ensure that American people, consumers of information, can differentiate between news written by a free press and propaganda distributed by the Chinese Communist Party itself.”
The latest determination follows the State Department’s actions on Feb. 18 and June 22, for a total of 15 Chinese outlets designated as foreign missions this year.
Wednesday's announcement is the latest U.S. step to curb Chinese activity in the United States in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy theme.
The State Department has previously required Chinese media outlets to register as foreign missions and announced in March it was cutting the number of journalists allowed to work at U.S. offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160.
In response, China expelled about a dozen American correspondents with The New York Times, News Corp’s Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Beijing also demanded that the Voice of America and Time magazine provide the Chinese government with detailed information about their operations.
Some information from Reuters.
Thai Prime Minister Lifts Week-Old State of Emergency
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has lifted a state of emergency he imposed one week ago but which failed to bring an end to months of protests seeking his ouster and reforms of the country’s constitutional monarchy.
The government announced the end of the emergency decree in a written statement Thursday, saying the situation had eased to the point where “government officials and state agencies can enforce the regular laws.”
Prayuth issued the state of emergency last week after tens of thousands of protesters marched on his office at Government House in Bangkok and vowed not to leave until he agreed to step down.
Despite the ban on public gatherings of more than four people issued in the decree, mass demonstrations continued in the Thai capital, prompting Prayuth to announce on national television Wednesday that he was planning to lift the state of emergency.
However, the protesters have promised to resume the demonstrations if he did not resign by Saturday.
Prayuth is a former army general who seized power in a 2014 coup that ousted the elected civilian government. He won election to the post last year, but protesters say the vote was rigged in his favor due to laws drafted by the military.
In addition to changes to the constitution, demonstrators are also seeking to reduce the influence of the Thai monarchy. The institution maintains a divine-like status among Thailand’s elite, and is protected by strict “lese majeste” laws that allow for imprisonment of anyone convicted of insulting the monarchy.
Earlier Wednesday, Thai courts reversed a decision to shut down Voice TV — a media outlet partly owned by the family of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Voice TV is one of four media outlets under investigation by the government for their coverage of the protest movement.
New Huawei Phone Comes at Crucial Time for Chinese Company
Huawei's new smartphone has an upgraded camera, its latest advanced chipset and a better battery. What it may not have outside the Chinese tech giant's home market is very many buyers.
Huawei, which recently became the world's No. 1 smartphone maker, on Thursday unveiled its Mate 40 line of premium phones, a product release that comes at a crucial moment for the company as it runs out of room to maneuver around U.S. sanctions squeezing its ability to source components and software.
The Mate 40 could be the last one powered by the company's homegrown Kirin chipsets because of U.S. restrictions in May barring non-American companies from using U.S. technology in manufacturing without a license.
Analysts say the company had been stockpiling chips before the ban but its supply won't last forever.
"This is a major challenge to Huawei and it's really losing its market outside of China," said Mo Jia, an analyst at independent research firm Canalys. The latest U.S. restrictions mean it "100% has closed doors for Huawei to secure its future components."
Executives said this summer that production of Kirin chips would end in mid-September because they're made by contractors that need U.S. manufacturing technology. In a press preview this week ahead of the Mate 40's launch, staff declined to answer questions on Huawei's ability to source chips. The head of Huawei's consumer business, Richard Yu, referred only briefly to the issue at the end of a virtual launch event Thursday.
"For Huawei, nowadays we are in a very difficult time. We are suffering from the U.S.
government's third round ban. It's an unfair ban. It makes (the situation) extremely difficult," Yu said.
Huawei, which is also a major supplier of wireless network gear, is facing pressure in a wider global battle waged between the U.S. and China over trade and technological supremacy. The U.S. government's efforts to lobby allies in Europe to not give it a role in new high-speed 5G wireless networks over cybersecurity concerns has been paying off, with countries including Sweden and Britain blocking its gear.
Huawei phones are not widely available in the U.S., but they're sold in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The company climbed to the top of the global smartphone rankings this summer, knocking Samsung off top spot by shipping 55.8 million devices in the second quarter to gain a 20% share of the market, according to research firms Canalys and International Data Corp. But the performance was driven by strong growth in China while smartphone sales in the rest of the world tumbled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Analysts say it will be hard for Huawei to remain No. 1.
"Huawei's in a tight spot," said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight. Along with the U.S. sanctions, it's also hurt by slumping confidence in the brand that makes retailers less keen to stock its phones. "And sadly, I don't think you're going to see the Mate 40 performing particularly well outside of China."
Huawei has a small but enthusiastic fan base in Europe, its biggest market outside China. But some users are turned off by the idea of sticking with the brand because of a related problem: recent models like the Mate 40, priced at 899 euros ($1,070) and up, can't run Google's full Android operating system because of an earlier round of U.S. sanctions.
Instead, they come with a stripped down open source version of Android, which doesn't have Google's Play Store and can't run popular apps like Chrome, YouTube and Search.
Mark Osten, a 29-year-old architect in Preston, England, bought a Huawei P30 last year when the contract on his previous Samsung phone ended.
He says the camera is great but hesitates to recommend the brand to others because of the uncertainty.
"I just can't imagine life without YouTube or Google," said Osten.
To make up for losing Google services, Huawei has built its own app store and has been paying developers to create apps for it. Users can request apps that aren't yet available, but it's not something that appeals to Chloe Hetelle, a 35-year-old events organizer in Toulouse, France, who bought a Huawei P20 model two years ago after switching from an iPhone.
"I don't want to request apps, I just want to have YouTube," said Hetelle. "I'm not really keen on struggling to get something that I would have easily with another phone."
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