Alibaba Group Holding’s initial public offering may be subject to additional scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission after the company said it had discovered questionable accounting activity with its acquired film company, Bloomberg News reports.
Alibaba purchased a 60 percent stake in Hong Kong-based ChinaVision Media Group for $800 million just two months ago, renaming it Alibaba Pictures Group and appointing new management. According to The New York Times, Alibaba said that it discovered “possible noncompliant accounting treatments” related to inadequate provision for impairment on assets or write-downs, which were not identified. The e-commerce giant said it therefore would not be able to meet the mid-year deadline to report its earnings for the first six months of the year, adding that its shares would not be traded until auditors can sort out the “suspicious activity.”
The Chinese company has been working to prepare for its U.S. IPO, scheduled for September. Until then, the SEC said that its main goal would be to make sure that Alibaba reveals its financial irregularities to the public. David Martin, former head of the SEC’s corporate finance division and now a partner at the Covington & Burling in Washington, told Bloomberg News that the agency usually works with companies experiencing such issues so as to not get in the way of public offerings.
“When you file your registration statement, you hope that you sort of remain in a steady state until the process is finished, but it almost never happens,” Martin said to Bloomberg News. “You’re going to have stuff come up.”
But the discovery of Alibaba Pictures’ accounting issues may bring into question whether Alibaba has been properly researching companies that it looks to acquire, according to The New York Times. Before the revelations about Alibaba Pictures, analysts said that the e-commerce company could raise up to $20 billion in its IPO.
John Nester, an SEC spokesman, declined to comment to Bloomberg on Alibaba Pictures’ accounting issues. In an e-mailed statement, Alibaba said that it backed its film unit’s new management as it works to correct the problems.
“The new management team has a firm commitment to transparency, good corporate governance and investor protection, and the actions they have taken are consistent with this commitment,” the company said in the statement to The New York Times.