Technology firm Vakrangee was trading lower in morning trade today after a news report that auditing major Price Waterhouse has quit audit mandate of the firm, flagging concerns to the corporate affairs ministry about the books of accounts, mainly related to its bullion and jewellery business, even as the company denied any irregularities. At 10:07 am, the stock was trading 4.96% or 4.25 points lower at 81.50, a fresh 52-week low on BSE. The stock closed at the same level today.
Meanwhile, the firm issued a clarification regarding the resignation of the auditor and said, "This is with respect to news articles in newspapers yesterday and today dated 6 & 7 May 2018. The Company would like to clarify that Price Waterhouse & Co Chartered Accountants LLP (PWC) resignation is an old event dated 28th April 2018 whereby company has already provided the update on the same on the stock exchanges. Post the event, on May 5, 2018, the company has already appointed M/s A P Sanzgiri & Co, Chartered Accountants, as the New Statutory Auditor."
On the concerns over books of accounts, the firm said, "The management would like to assure that the Company's financial statements present the true and fair view of the state of the affairs of the company. The company is fully compliant with the Ind-AS accounting standards. PWC had satisfactorily done the limited review for the period till 31st December 2017. Fourth quarter Audit had yet to begin."
The Vakrangee stock opened at 81.50 against the previous closing of 85.75 level. The stock has been losing for the last 10 days and is down 40% in the period. Currently, the stock has only sellers and no bidders.
The stock is down 80.64% since the beginning of this year and fallen 53.30% during the last one year.
On January 24, 2018, the stock touched its 52 week high of 515.40 on BSE. Its market capitalisation stood at Rs 8,629 crore.
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is also probing the firm, which had earlier probed some other entities having traded in Vakrangee shares, about alleged disclosure and corporate governance lapses, regulatory and government officials said.
Vakrangee issued a clarification on probe by Sebi on allegations of price volume manipulation in the stock and said, "The Company would like to highlight that we have not received any communication either from Stock Exchanges or Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The rumours of involvement of Company in price and volume manipulation are completely baseless and factually incorrect."
There were no comments from PwC, which resigned as the statutory auditor of Vakrangee before completing even a year of auditing assignment with the company.
Incorporated in 1990, Vakrangee calls itself a "unique technology driven company focused on building India's largest network of last-mile retail outlets to deliver real-time banking, insurance, e-governance, e-commerce and logistics services to the unserved and under-served rural, semi-urban and urban markets".
For its retail outlets called 'Vakrangee Kendra' and billed as the 'One-stop shop' to avail various services and products, the company had earlier talked to some big jewellers and banks but many of those couldn't fructify.
The company had acquired some shares in PC Jewellers also, which they are believed to have sold already and a proposed tie-up between the two could not be concluded, sources aware of the developments said.
PC Jewellers also didn't reply to queries in this regard.
Vakrangee had earlier announced ambitious plans to setup and manage a total of 75,000 'Vakrangee Kendra' outlets across India by 2020 and covering the presence in all postal codes of the country.
Price Waterhouse was appointed by Vakrangee in September last year. It has reviewed the company's financials till December quarter but the problem cropped up when the auditor started working on the full year accounts and found problems with the company's "election books as well as bullion and jewellery businesses", government and regulatory officials said.
Price Waterhouse has now written to the corporate affairs ministry, expressing its concerns about the company's businesses. Moreover, the accountancy firm informed the ministry that it did not receive any reasonable assurance from Vakrangee, whether its financial statements were free from material misstatements, whether due to fraud or error, officials said.
Before writing to the ministry, the auditing firm had sought information from Vakrangee's management and audit committee about these businesses on several occasions in March but did not receive satisfactory reply. In fact, the reply were "inadequate or contradicting".
This was one of the prime reasons cited by Price Waterhouse for quitting the company.
The absence of "adequate and relevant information and explanations regarding the company's election books, bullion and jewellery businesses," by the firm made Price Waterhouse to withdraw from the audit engagements.
However, Vakrangee has informed the stock exchanges that it has provided all the information with respect to business and affairs of the company to the auditor and the audit committee and "the financial statements present the true and fair view of the state of the affairs of the company".
In February this year, Sebi had imposed a fine of Rs 9.5 lakh on Abhirati Trading for shareholding disclosure lapses in the matter of Vakrangee. The regulator upon suspicion of violation of various provisions had conducted an investigation into the shares of Vakrangee.