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What: Shares of Chinese insurer CNinsure (Nasdaq: CISG ) were absolutely hammered today, losing as much as 30% in intraday trading after a research analyst raised questions about the company.
So what: An analyst at small, China-focused research firm OLP Global raised questions today about CNinsure and its compensation practices. Specifically, OLP's report suggests that the company's sales incentive program is actually an equity incentive plan that should be, but currently isn't, reflected in the company's expenses. The end result is that CNinsure may have been overstating net income "by a meaningful amount."
Now what: Interestingly, this news came on the same day that fellow Chinese small cap RINO International (Nasdaq: RINO ) announced that it's being delisted from Nasdaq after failing to respond to questions raised by short-selling research firm Muddy Waters. The issues with RINO have pulled down other China-based stocks including Harbin Electric (Nasdaq: HRBN ) and China Valves Technology (Nasdaq: CVVT ) , and it doesn't surprise me that other small research firms would try to jump in the fray and potentially capture some of the buzz that Muddy Waters has gotten since its RINO dissection.
But it's notable that OLP isn't just some random folks hanging up a shingle and calling themselves a research shop. The company's founder, Adele Mao, was formerly at Susquehanna International covering Chinese stocks and was with Lehman Brothers before that. Also interesting is the fact that Mao was raising questions about RINO's corporate governance and accounting practices as far back as April.
I recently noted that the fact that CNinsure came to the U.S. markets via a traditional IPO process and is audited by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu should give investors some comfort on the company's internal controls, but the concerns raised by OLP definitely give me pause.
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