Wirecard has said that €1.9bn (£1.7bn) in funds missing from its bank accounts may not exist, as the accounting scandal at the German payments company deepens.
The firm processes tens of billions of euros in credit and debit transactions each year and is a former darling of Germany’s tech sector. It had previously said it believed the money was held in escrow accounts at two Asian banks.
The company’s longtime auditors EY were unable to trace the money and the central bank of Philippines said none of the money appeared to have entered the country’s financial system.
“The management board of Wirecard assesses on the basis of further examination that there is a prevailing likelihood that the bank trust account balances in the amount of €1.9bn do not exist,” Wirecard said in a statement on Monday. The missing money accounts for about a quarter of Wirecard’s total balance sheet.
The company’s share price fell by more than 40% on Monday and has fallen by 75% since last Thursday, when EY said the funds were missing. On Friday, Markus Braun, Wirecard’s longtime chief executive, resigned from the company he had built into Europe’s most valuable financial technology group. Braun, the group’s largest shareholder, said the company had “outstanding technology and sufficient resources for a great future” and “I do not want to burden this future”.
Wirecard said on Monday it was withdrawing its financial results for 2019 and the first quarter of 2020. “Potential effects on the annual financial accounts of previous years cannot be excluded,” the company said.
The company said it was continuing “constructive discussions” with a consortium of banks over the extension of €2bn in loans. The loans can be terminated after the company missed the deadline for publishing its annual results last week.
“Wirecard is assessing options for a sustainable financing strategy for the company,” the management board said. “In addition, the company is examining a broad range of possible further measures to ensure the continuation of its business operations, including cost reductions as well as restructuring, disposal or termination of business units and products segments.”
Felix Hufeld, the president of the German financial watchdog BaFin, said the Wirecard scandal was a “complete disaster” and he was critical of his own organisation’s inaction.
“It’s a complete disaster we are looking at,” he said, on a panel discussion on Monday. “It is a shame that something like that happened. It starts with looking at a complete failure of senior management despite many, many hints to discover the facts. It goes on to the scores of auditors who couldn’t dig up the truth and it goes on with a whole range of private and public entities including my own who have not been effective enough to prevent something like that happening.”
Last year, BaFin temporarily banned short selling of Wirecard shares, a step it had never taken for an individual company, after receiving indications from German prosecutors that there were signs of “manipulative behaviour” potentially including insider trading.
“We don’t know the facts today, nobody knows the right facts today,” Hufeld said. “Right now we’re in crisis mode.”
In April, KPMG reported that a special audit could not verify whether “the lion’s share” of profits reported from 2016 to 2018 were genuine.
When Wirecard joined Germany’s Dax 30 share index two years ago it was worth €24bn. It is now valued at less than €3bn.