FMCN’s partial response to our 80-page November 21, 2011 report reinforces our Strong Sell rating.
FMCN’s response admitted that our estimate of fewer than 120,000 LCD screens showing full motion video advertisements is correct. Despite this admission, FMCN denied that it was fraudulently overstating the number of displays in its network because the 178,382 displays it discloses include 62,656 digital picture frames. FMCN’s response stated that it does not also count these digital picture frames in its poster segment. There is strong evidence that FMCN does in fact double count these digital frames. However, in response to our report and in contrast to previous 20-F filings, FMCN has expanded the definition of its LCD commercial display network beyond full motion video, which makes a clear and final resolution of this point unlikely. Therefore, FMCN at best prompted investors to think it had more motion displays than it does, and at worst fraudulently overstated the size of its LCD commercial display network. Both possibilities raise concerns about the health of this business line.
FMCN has fraudulently overstated the size of at least one other business line – through 2008, FMCN claimed its movie theater network was 17.6x the size of the potential market.
FMCN’s response did nothing to dispel our concerns about its acquisitions – namely that it deliberately overpays for, and unduly impairs in order to improperly give away, a substantial portion of its acquisitions. It is still clear that FMCN did not actually purchase six purported mobile handset advertising businesses, even as VIEs.
FMCN’s response that insiders’ self-dealing was to show “confidence” in the businesses is almost ridiculous enough to not merit a mention in this report. FMCN’s response cites a dubious valuation report as support for self-dealing in Allyes, yet FMCN does not provide answers as to why two outside individuals were allowed to earn $20 million on the transactions.
We believe that FMCN’s impending “independent” verification of the number of LCD screens in its network is likely to be compromised. There is precedent for this statement – FMCN’s audit committee previously undertook a flawed investigation into possible improprieties. As we discussed in our initial report, FMCN’s board’s is comprised of individuals who are largely entangled with management and whose compensation misaligns their interests from those of shareholders.
We maintain our Strong Sell rating on FMCN mainly because our concerns regarding the viability of FMCN’s core LCD commercial location network remain. This issue, combined with FMCN’s additional misrepresentations about the size of the network, FMCN’s opaque business model (on both the revenue and cost sides), and insiders’ penchant for self-dealing, render FMCN shares un-investable.