“I’m a stock market person -- not anti-China, not anti-Qihoo. I want to buy good companies and short bad companies.”
By Xiangyu Shi, The Founder magazine(ww.iheima.com)
Citron Research, which has previously challenged a number of Chinese concept stocks, has recently been the target of a challenge from Innovation Works C.E.O. Kai-fu Lee and other Chinese business people.
On August 27, Lee published an essay pointing to a Citron report on Qihoo as fraudulent. Three days later, Citron founder Andrew Left publicly replied that Lee selectively ignored Citron's record of exposing adverse information about 130 companies in the United States an China since its founding 11 years ago.
As a well-known short-selling firm, Citron's "research targets" are mainly Chinese companies listed abroad. The company's website even offers a section called "We understand China," which lists 20 Chinese companies that Citron has challenged. Seven companies on the list, including Longtop Financial Technologies and CCME China MediaExpress Holdings, have delisted. The Longtop Financial case garnered Citron its reputation.
Left's history does not seem so glorious. In 1998, the National Futures Association suspended him for three years for "publishing false and misleading information to deceive or defraud customers." Later, Left founded Citron and began targeting Chinese concept stocks in 2006.
The media has described Citron as Left's company alone. But in an interview with TECHINASIA, Left said that he was not fighting a war alone and that many people were willing to work for him and provide information to him, adding that he gets 50 emails a day from Chinese people looking to work for him.
As to whether he uses short selling to make money, Left admitted that he uses his own money to place short orders. But he stressed that this doesn't alter the facts in his research reports.
But Lee and others have criticized Citron's recent report on Qihoo as being far below standard and even containing numerous factual errors.
At the very least, as to whether Sohu search and Sogou pinyin are different products, Left has conceded: "I did combine the two. You can call it an error -- an over-simplification for an American audience. But that doesn't mean the whole story is not valid."
In addition, Citron claimed that Qihoo's average revenue per user (ARPU) could not possibly be 4 million yuan and offered a reward of 100,000 yuan to anyone who could prove that Qihoo did not fabricate the number. On September 13, XD.com CEO Huang Yimeng and eight other webpage game company executives published an open letter on Zhihu.com saying they had data to prove that Qihoo's ARPU was reliable.
Left did not respond directly to the specific analysis of the nine gaming executives, but told The Founder Magazine, "Their response is ridiculous and I can prove it but I have decided not to attempt to prove my case in the court of public opinion because the media has been so against me. Instead, I will prove it in the court of law. Any person who has a working knowledge of the gaming industry can read their response and see how shallow it is. Real sad."
Left says he hopes to resolve the current situation through legal channels. He said that he has consulted with a lawyer of Lee and Zhou Hongyi's accusations of fraud. The English-language website aimed at Citron, CitronFraud.com, on which Lee has published a number of articles, is registered in America. "The lawsuit would be filed in the U.S."
In the process of shorting Qihoo, Citron issued a number of reports but could not bring Qihoo's share price down. In response, Left said that life is a marathon, not a sprint, and that the continued strength of the share price has not frustrated him. "I am more frustrated by people not properly absorbing information," he said.
"I’m a stock market person -- not anti-China, not anti-Qihoo. I want to buy good companies and short bad companies. Also it’s not Andrew versus Kai-Fu Lee. We both want to make money," Left said.