PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 10:50 UK, 21st Nov 2012, by Agrimoney.com
Olam shares rise despite fresh Muddy Waters attack

Shares in Olam International revived despite a fresh attack from Muddy Waters, the short-selling fund, which warned that the agricultural commodities trader would "collapse", and accusing its boss of an "abject failure of leadership".

Muddy Waters, whose initial warning on Monday that Olam represented a "black hole" sent shares in the group down 21% in the US over-the-counter market, in a follow-up attached accused the group of "mismanagement of the public trust" in its handling of its finances.

Rather than reducing its debt burden and rate of cash burn, to correct criticisms lodged by broker CLSA last year, Olam had raised its borrowings and spending, Muddy Waters said in a letter to Sunny Verghese, the trading group's chief executive.

"In other words, you did the exact opposite of what you should have done. Your actions have been an abject failure of leadership," the letter said.

'Clock is likely ticking'

Muddy Waters, which is said to be preparing to publish an 80-page report on Olam, also said it believed that the trader would "collapse", without giving details, and criticised the group for a "frantic response" to Monday's attack.

On Tuesday, Olam, temporarily, halted dealing in its Singapore-traded shares, its main listing, organised two conference calls and sent out two press releases.

"We suggest you find better uses of your time than focusing on criticism," Muddy Waters, headed by Carson Block, said.

"For instance, you might want to work on plans to reign in your capex and deleverage. The clock is likely ticking."

Market reaction

However, Olam's Singapore-listed shares rebounded on Wednesday, closing 5.3% higher at Sing$1.695, and recovering more than half the ground lost in the previous session.

At broker Maybank Kim Eng, analyst James Koh, kept a "hold" rating on Olam shares, noting Muddy Waters "mixed track record" since an attack on China-based Sino-Forest Corporation saw the timber group delisted and file for bankruptcy protection.

"Without the benefit of the full [Muddy Waters] report, we think the broad claims so far are nothing really new and agree [with Olam] that they are unsubstantiated," Mr Koh said.

"The broader question investors should be asking is what kind of valuation to attach to a business which is inherently complex," he said, sticking with a target price for Olam stock of Sing$1.61.

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