Thursday, 29 January 2009

How did "India's Enron" come about?

"We will see a significant increase in
[ financial accounting scandals], however the jurisdiction is shifting from the more regulated markets where Sarbanes-Oxley, independent audit committees and the significant level of oversight make it more difficult to get away with, to emerging markets where supervision and broad oversight is not as advanced," said Richard Abbey, managing director, Financial Investigations for risk consulting company, Kroll.

I have reported these comments from Abbey before in an earlier posting, but I wanted to highlight them again in light of the Financial Times publishing its account of B. Ramalinga Raju, the former chairman of Indian IT firm, Satyam Computers and how "India's Enron" unfolded.

According to the newspaper report, Mr Raju became "obsessed with market capitalisation", which is what Abbey is alluding to in his statement above.

The report goes on to say that Mr Raju also appeared to benefit from the silliness that prevailed during the boom when the market cap of companies was wildly overinflated and no one, including those financing companies, really paid any attention to a company's earnings or P&L .

According to the FT, Mr Raju listed Satyam Infoway on the Nasdaq in 1999, and was able to immediately raise money despite the fact that the company had lost money. But once the bubble burst, according to the police the accounting fraud began in 2001 when the share price deflated.

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