Thursday, June 25, 2020

FT: "Wirecard: the rise and fall of a German tech icon | Free to read"

From the Financial Times, June 25

How the payments group became one of the hottest stocks in Europe while battling persistent allegations of fraud
The early years 
1999 Wirecard is founded in a Munich suburb, backed by venture capital in the late stages of the dotcom boom. A payment processor, it helps websites collect credit card payments from customers.

2002 After the group almost goes bust, Markus Braun, a former KPMG consultant, takes over as chief executive and merges Wirecard with a Munich rival, Electronic Business Systems.

2005 Wirecard joins the Frankfurt stock market by taking over the listing of a defunct call centre group, a route that avoids the scrutiny of an initial public offering. It has 323 employees and the core of its business is managing payments for online gambling and pornography.

2006 Wirecard moves into banking with the purchase of XCOM. The renamed Wirecard Bank is licensed by Visa and Mastercard, meaning it can both issue credit cards and handle money on behalf of merchants. This unusual hybrid of banking and non-banking operations makes its accounts harder to compare with peers, and helps persuade investors to rely on the company’s adjusted versions of financial statements.

The first attack
2008 The head of a German shareholder association publishes an attack on Wirecard, suggesting balance sheet irregularities. EY is appointed to conduct a special audit, and the following year replaces the small Munich firm that had previously acted as group auditor. The German authorities eventually prosecute two men in connection with the attack, who had not disclosed positions in Wirecard stock. ...