U.S. markets closed

Activist Hohn Calls on Wirecard to Remove CEO Markus Braun

Peter Vercoe

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire activist investor Christopher Hohn has called on Wirecard AG to remove Chief Executive Officer Markus Braun after an independent audit of past revenues criticized the German payments processor for internal “shortcomings.”

The probe by KPMG was unable to obtain the data needed to verify revenues of 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in transactions with third parties. Wirecard hired the accounting firm in October to look into its third-party partner business as well as operations in India and Singapore following a series of reports by the Financial Times that accused the company of accounting fraud in several countries.

Shares in Wirecard fell 12.6% in early trading in Frankfurt, taking the drop since start of trading Tuesday to 37%.

Given management didn’t provide KPMG with the necessary documentation to verify the revenue, “we are of the view that the supervisory board is legally obliged to intervene,” Hohn’s TCI Fund Management Ltd. said in a letter also posted on its website.

“In our opinion, the necessary intervention is now to remove the CEO from all management duties,” TCI said. Failing that, the board must take responsibility for the investigation and remove Wirecard’s management from involvement in the audit until the allegations have been resolved, it said.

TCI has a short position in Wirecard, equivalent to 1.04% of the company’s stock.

Hohn’s hedge fund, which managed about $30 billion before suffering its steepest ever monthly decline in March, specializes in taking large stakes in companies and agitating for change to boost the firms’ share prices.

His bets have included companies such as ABN Amro Bank NV, News Corp. and most recently some attempted agitation against the London Stock Exchange Group Plc.

The tactic has worked well for TCI -- it’s made money every year since 2008. It gained 41% in 2019, its best annual performance in six years.

(Updates with share price, corrects company name.)

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.