|Bid||148.90 x 3500|
|Ask||148.80 x 14200|
|Day's range||146.95 - 150.70|
|52-week range||92.92 - 170.15|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||0.56|
|PE ratio (TTM)||25.04|
|Earnings date||13 Feb 2018 - 19 Feb 2018|
|Forward dividend & yield||2.90 (1.96%)|
|Ex-dividend date||20 May 2020|
|1y target est||119.75|
(Bloomberg) -- James Freis took charge of Wirecard AG on Friday following the shock announcement that Markus Braun had resigned as chief executive officer. The question he faces on Monday is what, if anything, he will be able to salvage of the payment company.Braun’s position became untenable following revelations that about 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) -- or two-thirds of the company’s 2019 revenue -- had gone missing. The two Asian banks that were supposed to be holding the money denied any business relationship with Wirecard and the company subsequently withdrew its fiscal 2019 and first-quarter 2020 financial results after saying those funds on its balance sheet probably don’t exist.The chaos has shaved about 85% off Wirecard’s market value over just three trading days. As interim CEO, Freis has to convince investors that the collapse isn’t terminal.He has some relevant experience. He began his career as an attorney at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. After a spell as director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, where he was responsible for the regulation of financial institutions, he spent 6 years at Deutsche Boerse AG, most recently as chief compliance officer.Freis wasn’t meant to start at Wirecard until July. He also wasn’t meant to be running the company -- last week, he was supposed to be getting ready to run a new department called “Integrity, Legal and Compliance.” Now, his first priority will be to work closely with the company’s lenders, who are demanding more clarity in return for the extension of almost $2 billion in financing after Wirecard breached terms on the loan. At least 15 commercial lenders, including Commerzbank AG and ABN Amro, are in negotiations about the next steps.Wirecard said it’s in “constructive talks” with its lenders, and has hired investment bank Houlihan Lokey Inc. to come up with a financing strategy. However, a prolonged extension of Wirecard’s repayment obligation could be seen as delaying insolvency, which is illegal under German law.In Braun’s parting note on Friday he said the “confidence of the capital market in the company I have been managing for 18 years has been deeply shaken.” He added that responsibility for all business transactions lies with the CEO.Now Freis will need to build up that confidence to halt a share price that went into free fall -- the stock was down 36% at 10:58 a.m. in Frankfurt trading. Long-term investors have cut their stakes in Wirecard, while Deutsche Bank AG’s asset manager DWS said it will file a lawsuit against both Wirecard and Braun, a company spokesman said on Friday.The price of credit swaps on Wirecard indicate 82% odds of default by Christmas and 96% likelihood over five years, according to ICE Data Services on Friday, while Moody’s Investors Service cut Wirecard’s credit ratings six levels, putting it one step from the lowest tier of junk.Wirecard is also facing multiple investigations by local prosecutors and BaFin, the German financial regulator. One of Freis’ tasks will be to clarify with regulators what happened to the missing cash and what the implications will be to Wirecard’s balance sheet.The problem has been compounded after Philippine central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno told reporters on Sunday that none of the missing money entered the Philippine financial system, after two of its major lenders denied holding funds for the German payments processor.The company has also been forced to reassure customers that it is business as normal at its banking arm. Wirecard started offering a digital wallet called boon Planet in 2019. The app, similar to Paypal, was advertised in January this year with an attractive yield for account balances. While it is unclear how much money customers deposited at the app, the company sent out a message on Saturday reassuring its clients that their deposits are protected by a German state guarantee fund.German politicians are now taking aim at Wirecard, once seen as proof that Germany could build a fintech giant to take on U.S. rivals.“BaFin started its investigations early on, but sadly that couldn’t prevent the striking losses for investors,” said Florian Toncar, a German lawmaker from the opposition Free Democrats. “It would be very good to see BaFin use the tools at its disposal to quickly provide investors with clarity.”Freis posted his job update on LinkedIn shortly after the announcement. One contact responded that it sounds like “one heck of a turn around project” but that Wirecard has found the right guy to restore credibility. In a reply, Freis quipped that the “one upside...is that I never have to worry about finding a beer when I need one at the end of the day.”(Updates with share price in eighth paragraph, additional context.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Just a month ago, the chief executive officer of Wirecard AG boasted on Twitter that the future would still be bright for the digital payments company when “all the noise and dust settles.”At the time, Markus Braun was a paper billionaire. But over the course of a couple of days, the fintech veteran has been forced to step-down as CEO and seen the value of his stake dwindle after a two-day stock rout.Braun’s position at the German payments company became untenable after revelations on Thursday that about 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion) -- two-thirds of 2019 revenue and about a quarter of the firm’s consolidated balance sheet -- had gone missing. Two Asian banks that were supposed to be holding the money it denied any business relationship with Wirecard, raising fresh questions about the embattled company.After years of allegations of wrongdoing, Bruan was at the center of the controversy, with repeated assurances that Wirecard’s accounts were above the board, despite Wirecard headquarters being searched in early June by German prosecutors as part of a criminal probe involving the company’s senior management.The executive, who’s also the company’s largest shareholder, will now be replaced on an interim basis by James Freis, who was originally appointed in May to take the new role of chief compliance officer.Freis is stepping into an almost unprecedented situation. The interim CEO wasn’t supposed to join until July, when he was going to be responsible for a newly created department called “Integrity, Legal and Compliance.”Previously head of compliance at Deutsche Boerse AG, Fries held the position of director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, where he was responsible for the regulation of financial institutions.He will need to act fast to restore trust and reassure creditors. Failure to publish audited results on Friday triggers the potential termination of up to 2 billion euros in loans. Wirecard said it is in “constructive” talks with its banks to continue credit lines and the further business relationship.“A change in management was warranted for some time and following yesterday’s events and the further decline in Wirecard shares today, we are not surprised that the CEO is stepping down,” said Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. “There may be no quick fix.”The story of Wirecard’s woes trace back to Braun, who may have been too invested in the company, making him either unwilling or unable to see issues and take corrective measures.When Braun joined Wirecard in 2002, the payments company had a few dozen employees and in its early years serviced mainly clients active in online gambling and porn. The Austrian national since engineered a growth story by acquiring companies in the U.S. and Asia. Today, customers include Germany’s most successful soccer club Bayern Munich, French mobile phone carrier Orange SA and Swedish furniture giant Ikea.In September 2018, Wirecard replaced Commerzbank AG in Germany’s elite DAX index, making Braun a star of the country’s digital ambitions.“Markus Braun’s resignation was overdue,” said Danyal Bayaz, a lawmaker with Germany’s Greens. “Wirecard is not a small fintech, but a DAX member.”Unlike U.S. tech billionaires, Braun usually sports a suit instead of a hoodie, but generally shuns wearing a tie. He got a degree in computer science from the Technical University of Vienna and a doctorate in social and economic sciences. He worked as a management consultant at KPMG before joining Wirecard.Even after winning SoftBank Group Corp. as an investor in April last year, Braun had been unable to re-establish trust following a series of articles in early 2019 by the Financial Times about potential fraud. Despite aggressive denials and allegations of market manipulation leveled at the reporter, the company acknowledged irregularities following an independent investigation that had access only to limited information.Braun’s response to the latest crisis followed a similar pattern: downplay or dismiss the allegations, paint the company as a victim and attempt to switch over to business as usual.At 8:19 a.m. on Thursday -- a time when investors were nervously awaiting delayed 2019 financial results -- Wirecard posted on Twitter about how Chinese shopping trends were favoring its business model, sparking enraged comments as the stock collapse took shape hours later.The company was well aware of the issue at the time of the feel-good tweet. Chief Operating Officer Jan Marsalek, who has been temporarily suspended, had tried to get in touch with the two Asian banks and trustees over the past two days to recover the missing money, according to a person familiar with the matter.In the direct aftermath, Braun pointed the finger at everyone but himself.“It is currently unclear whether fraudulent transactions to the detriment of Wirecard AG have occurred,” he said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the company will file a complaint against unnamed persons. “It cannot be ruled out that Wirecard has been the victim in a substantial case of fraud,” he said later.Long-term investors criticized Braun for being too much of a “techie” -- big on vision but short on management expertise. They’ve noted that he was very loyal to employees and resisted firing people. Those characteristics could have made him too trusting to delve into compliance issues as many in charge of those areas have long histories with the CEO.Center stage is not where Braun says he’s comfortable. The computer scientist steers Wirecard from a suburban office park, a world away from the glittering urban towers that house most financial powerhouses. He calls himself shy -- his birthdate isn’t publicly known and the company only acknowledges him being born in Vienna in 1969 -- but there’s more than a hint of false modesty.He aggressively pushed the company’s expansion, executing numerous takeovers of smaller and at times intransparent operators. And he wasn’t bashful about trumping up Wirecard’s success.“It can make you stronger and more robust if you focus on the positive and manage to make something positive from negative energy,” he told Bloomberg in an interview in September 2018 with the company at its peak. “Whenever you stick your head out, some people will like it and some won’t.”A year later at banking conference in Frankfurt, the bravado was still there despite months of turmoil over accounting concerns. Sitting on stage alongside, his counterpart at Deutsche Bank AG -- a lynch pin of the German economy and a company will versed in crises -- the moderator asked both men what it meant that Wirecard’s share price was above Deutsch Bank’s, Braun replied: “It means we are both undervalued.”(Updated with additional context.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Markus Braun’s almost two decades as Wirecard AG’s chief executive officer ended after accusations about the company’s accounting culminated in a shock disclosure that it was unable to locate 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion).James Freis has been appointed interim CEO, the German payments company said in a short statement Friday. A recent hire and former compliance executive at Deutsche Boerse AG, Freis was only named as a member of the management board on Thursday.Braun’s exit comes after a catastrophic few days for Wirecard, which suffered a share price collapse after the two Asian banks that were alleged to be holding the missing cash denied any business relationship with the company.Read More: Germany’s Fintech Star Falls on Failure to Clean Up WirecardWirecard is now facing a potential cash crunch. The company warned Thursday that loans of as much as 2 billion euros could be terminated if its audited annual report is not published on Friday. Analysts at Morgan Stanley estimated that Wirecard has available cash of around 220 million euros if it cannot locate the missing $2.1 billion.Wirecard’s lenders are considering hiring outside help as they seek to navigate the risk of a potentially massive default, a person familiar with the matter said.Named CEO in 2002, Braun has put tens of millions of euros of his own funds into the firm. The value of his stake, which once made him a paper billionaire, has dwindled in the course of the rout.His replacement is stepping into an almost unprecedented situation. Freis wasn’t supposed to join until July, when he was going to be responsible for a newly created department called “Integrity, Legal and Compliance.”Freis was previously head of compliance at Deutsche Boerse AG, and held the position of Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, where he was responsible for the regulation of financial institutions.The interim CEO will need to quickly reassure Wirecard’s business partners. Wirecard has licenses with Visa, Mastercard and JCB International, through which Wirecard’s banking arm issues its credit cards. If Wirecard is unable to find its missing cash, Visa and Mastercard may have cause to revoke the licenses.“The big question is whether they retain the Visa and Mastercard licenses,” Neil Campling, analyst at Mirabaud said. “Without those they have no business.”Mastercard said it is following the developments at Wirecard but did not want to comment on specific customer conversations or situations. Visa did not have an immediate comment.Missing CashWirecard claimed on Thursday that auditor Ernst & Young couldn’t confirm the location of the missing cash that was supposed to be held at two Asian banks and reported that “spurious balance confirmations” had been provided.The confusion deepened on Friday when BDO Unibank Inc., the Philippines’ largest bank by assets, and the Bank of the Philippine Islands, said on Friday that Wirecard isn’t a client.“It was a rogue employee who falsified documents and forged the signatures of our officers,” BDO Unibank CEO Nestor Tan said in a mobile phone message. “Wirecard is not even a depositor -- we have no relationship with them.”A document purporting to show a link between Wirecard and the Bank of the Philippine Islands was “bogus” and may be part of an attempted fraud, the president of the Southeast Asian lender said in a phone interview.Wirecard shares plunged as much as 52% in Frankfurt on Friday. The selloff in Wirecard’s bonds also intensified, with the company’s 500 million-euro bonds maturing in 2024 falling a further 14 cents to trade at 24 cents. Its 900 million euros of convertible bonds are now indicated at less than 10 cents on the euro.Wirecard was worth 24.6 billion euros in September 2018 when it entered Germany’s Dax index, and widely considered as one of Germany’s few successful fintech stories. It was valued at about 2.4 billion euros on Friday morning.Wirecard spokespeople did not return calls and emails for comment.Historic SlumpWirecard’s reversal of fortune has caught its supporters off guard. Some of the company’s most loyal shareholders are now dumping their stakes as allegations of accounting impropriety engulf the German payments company. Analysts are also quickly changing their recommendations, despite continued concerns about the company’s accounting.As of Wednesday, 10 out of 25 analysts tracked by Bloomberg recommended buying the stock. Since then, at least nine analysts have removed their recommendations and three have downgraded the stock to sell.German financial markets regulator BaFin said it is also examining Wirecard’s disclosure on Thursday as part of its investigation into whether the company violated rules against market manipulation, according to a spokeswoman.BaFin has three investigations of Wirecard running: whether the company manipulated markets with its disclosures, whether Braun’s stock purchase ahead of the planned publication of the company’s annual report violated market abuse roles and whether the company and its management are fit to be the owners of a bank.Fraud ClaimsBraun has previously painted the company as a potential victim, resisting calls to resign and aggressively defending Wirecard against accusations of accounting fraud, led by a series of articles in the Financial Times.“It cannot be ruled out that Wirecard has been the victim in a substantial case of fraud,” Braun said in a statement published overnight.The company temporarily suspended its outgoing Chief Operating Officer Jan Marsalek, it said in a statement late Thursday. Marsalek -- who has been suspended on a revocable basis until June 30 -- had tried to get in touch with the two Asian banks and trustees over the past two days to recover the missing money, but wasn’t successful, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday. It’s unclear if the funds can be recovered, the person added.German politicians are now asking how such a rapid collapse could happen to a fintech company that was once worth more than Deutsche Bank, and previously supported by local regulators. Early last year BaFin took the unprecedented step of temporarily banning short sales of Wirecard shares following reports of suspicious accounting practices.“Markus Braun’s resignation was overdue,” said Danyal Bayaz, a lawmaker with Germany’s Greens. “Wirecard is not a small fintech, but a DAX member.”(Updates with statement from Visa and the Bank of the Philippine Islands.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.