【英语财经】阿里巴巴:美中审计争议或影响投资者信心 Alibaba Warns US-China Audit Dispute May Have Repercussions for Investors

  • 【英语财经】阿里巴巴:美中审计争议或影响投资者信心 Alibaba Warns US-China Audit Dispute May Have Repercussions for Investors已关闭评论
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2014-5-8 10:47

小艾摘要: Deep within Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s filing to go public in the U.S. is a reminder that investors still have no way of telling how well or poorly Chinese companies are being audited. Alibaba ackno ...
Alibaba Warns US-China Audit Dispute May Have Repercussions for Investors
Deep within Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s filing to go public in the U.S. is a reminder that investors still have no way of telling how well or poorly Chinese companies are being audited.

Alibaba acknowledged Tuesday that investors could 'lose confidence' in the quality of its reported numbers because U.S. regulators haven't been able to inspect the work of its outside auditor, the Hong Kong affiliate of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Chinese Internet giant mentioned the issue as a risk factor in its filing for what's anticipated to be one of the largest initial public offerings in history. The company's statements highlight anew the possibility that Chinese companies could get pulled into a long-running dispute between the U.S. and Chinese governments concerning how much oversight the U.S. should have over the audits and financial reporting of China-based companies that trade on U.S. markets.

U.S. audit regulators from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board conduct regular inspections of all firms that audit U.S.-traded companies, to evaluate the quality of the audit firms' work and their compliance with auditing rules. But the Chinese government has blocked the PCAOB from conducting inspections inside China.

That affects not only Chinese audit firms, but also Hong Kong firms that audit companies based in mainland China, as PwC Hong Kong does. In all, the PCAOB hasn't been able to inspect 16 Hong Kong audit firms and eight mainland China firms, according to the board's website. (All the major accounting firms are international networks made up of freestanding, legally separate member firms in each country in which they do business, including separate firms for Hong Kong and mainland China.)

As a result, Alibaba said in its filing, its shareholders 'may be deprived of the benefits' that could flow from such inspections, such as making audits better by identifying and fixing problems with the auditors' procedures.

'Geopolitics are now part of risk factors,' said Jacob S. Frenkel, a former Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement attorney now in private practice. But he downplayed the possibility that Alibaba might actually be hurt by the U.S.-China dispute: 'Nowadays risk-factor disclosures include everything imaginable.'

An Alibaba spokeswoman said the company didn't have any comment beyond the statements in its filing. A PwC spokesman declined to comment.

In addition, Alibaba said it could be affected by a related dispute over U.S. regulators' access to audit-firm documents about Chinese companies.

In January, an SEC administrative law judge ruled the Chinese affiliates of PwC and other accounting firms should be suspended from auditing U.S.-listed companies for six months because they wouldn't give the SEC documents about some of their audit clients, to aid the SEC in investigating those companies. The firms have appealed the judge's decision, and they say they couldn't turn over the documents because China could penalize them harshly under Chinese laws that treat such documents as 'state secrets.

The ruling doesn't affect Hong Kong audit firms, but experts have said the Hong Kong firms often outsource their audit work on Chinese companies to the same firm's affiliate in mainland China. It isn't known whether PwC itself does so. Alibaba said in its filing that if the Chinese firms lose their appeal and are suspended, the company would need to consider the 'alternate support arrangements' that PwC Hong Kong would need in auditing Alibaba's mainland-China operations.

阿里巴巴集团(Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.)在美国申请上市的文件中隐藏着一个提醒,那就是投资者仍然没有办法判断对中国公司的审计质量如何。

Bloomberg News阿里巴巴周二承认,投资者可能对其报告的数据质量“失去信心”,原因是美国监管机构尚未能审查其外部审计机构普华永道(PricewaterhouseCoopers)香港合作所进行的工作。

这家中国互联网巨头在其申请上市的文件中将上述问题列为风险因素。阿里巴巴IPO预期将是历史上规模最大的IPO之一。该公司的声明再次凸显出中资公司可能被牵涉进美国和中国政府之间的一场长期争论中。美中争论的内容是美方对于在美上市中国企业的审计和财报的监管力度。

美国公共公司会计监督委员会(Public Company Accounting Oversight Board,简称:PCAOB)的审计监管人员定期审查所有对在美上市公司进行审计的公司,评估审计公司的工作质量以及它们是否遵守审计规则。但中国政府禁止PCAOB在中国境内进行审查。

这不仅影响到中国的审计公司,同时也影响了对中国内地公司进行审计的香港公司,普华永道香港所就是一例。PCAOB的网站显示,该公司总计未能对16家香港审计公司和八家中国内地审计公司进行审查。(所有主要会计师事务所都是由法律上独立的成员所组成的国际网络,这些成员所在各自所在的国家开展业务,包括香港和中国内地的独立成员所。)

阿里巴巴在文件中称,股东可能因此享受不到这类审查可能带来的好处,比如通过发现和纠正这些审计公司在程序方面存在的问题来改进审计工作。

私人执业律师、前美国证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission, 简称SEC)执法部律师弗伦克尔(Jacob S. Frenkel)说,地缘政治现在是风险因素之一。但他认为阿里巴巴因美中纠纷受到影响的可能性不是很大。他说,如今的风险披露声明包括了一切人们能想到的东西。

一位阿里巴巴发言人说,除申请文件中披露的内容外,公司没有其他评论。普华永道一位发言人拒绝对此置评。

另外,阿里巴巴表示,美国监管部门要求查阅审计公司手头的中资公司文件所引发的纠纷可能对公司造成影响。

多媒体报道:阿里巴巴全解读今年1月,一位SEC行政法法官裁定,普华永道和其他几家会计师事务所的中国关联公司须暂停为在美上市公司提供审计服务六个月,因为它们拒绝向SEC提供与部分审计客户有关的文件以协助SEC调查这些公司。这些中国审计公司已经就这项裁决提起上诉,表示它们无法移交相关文件,因为根据中国法律,相关文件属于“国家机密”,如果交给SEC的话它们可能受到中国政府重罚。

上述裁决不影响香港的审计公司,但专家表示,这些香港公司常常把中资企业的审计工作外包给内地的分支机构。不清楚普华永道是否也采取了这样的操作。阿里巴巴在文件中说,如果上述会计师事务所的中国关联公司上诉不成功,被暂停审计资格,阿里巴巴就必须考虑普华永道香港分公司审计阿里巴巴内地业务所需要的“替代性支持安排”。

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