Thursday, April 08, 2010

China Trip: What's Next for Fuqi?

By Eric Jackson
RealMoney Contributor

4/8/2010 1:30 PM EDT
Click here for more stories by Eric Jackson

Of all the companies I met with during my recent two-week trip to China, none generated more reader interest than Fuqi International (FUQI - commentary - Trade Now), which has had a tough month.

Check out Eric Jackson's previous story on Fuqi.

Four weeks ago, the Shenzhen-based jewelry supplier to China's emerging middle-class consumer delayed filing its 10-K, after noticing some accounting discrepancies across the company's operations. The stock took a 40% hit on the news. It bottomed out in the low-$10s, and has been trading above $11 a share these past few days.

The question from all readers: Hang on, or dump it?

I don't own Fuqi, and I won't buy the stock until I hear more from the company about the restatement. For those of you who still own the stock, you will likely have a binary outcome in the next month or so, which either will lead to a surge or another sharp drop in the shares. I can't predict the outcome, so you need to decide your risk level.

However, I do want to describe my meeting with Fuqi.

I met with the CFO, Fred Wong, and EVP of Finance, Charlene Hua. Both are based in Hong Kong and commute across the border two to three days a week to the corporate office in Shenzhen. Wong has been CFO since 2004. Hua, a U.S.-educated former banker, has been with the company a little more than a year. I get the feeling she was hired to do M&A, but has been taking the lead in corporate communications since the accounting issues emerged last month because she's a very polished speaker.

Our meeting last week came at the end of the day and lasted around three hours. I credit the two executives for taking the time to answer all our questions. They were in an impossible position. Some investors have complained to me: Why did they spend the time with you? They should be spending every waking hour cleaning up their numbers. But if they had refused to meet us, other investors would have asked: Why were they scared to meet you and answer your questions?

We had some initial difficulty setting up the meeting. The staff in Shenzhen didn't seem to know how to respond to our request, and we were stonewalled. When we finally got in contact with Hua, the meeting was immediately scheduled. She apologized for the delays and said the company was taking steps to train their staff to deal better with investor requests made directly to the company, rather than coming through Fuqi's U.S.-based investor-relations company.


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