On April 14 the Beijing-based software developer NQ Mobile (NQ) plunged on a weak earnings forecast, sending shares southward in a massive sell-off. However, the story of NQ Mobil isn’t just one of a company slowly losing business, it’s a representation of ongoing battle between China bulls and China bears. Notably, bears who purport that many Chinese plays aren’t just overhyped but are in fact nothing but a house of cards due to completely collapse.
While China has perhaps the most dynamic economy in the world, it's also capable of being one of the most corrupt, particularly for Chinese companies that sell stock on the American market. Of all the Chinese microcaps trading on the NYSE or Nasdaq, nearly five percent of them have been accused by American analysts, at one time or another, of being either partial or outright frauds.
NQ became the target of short-seller Carson Block, the founder of short-selling muckrackers Muddy Waters. Despite NQ’s favorable deals with major American tech plays like Apple Inc. (AAPL) , Muddy Waters didn’t just say they didn’t like NQ’s prospects, they called the company a complete fabrication. Muddy Waters alleged that NQ had overestimated their user base, either through incompetence or chicanery, by an exponential degree. The short sellers placed a rating of Strong Sell on NQ, placing a price target of zero on the company.
In short: as short a short a shorter can make. NQ plunged 54.55 percent on the news to below $10 a share. The company maintained a short float over 50 percent.
But NQ still had its believers. Over the next four months following the report, NQ climbed back up, notably on a deal with Sprint (S) to incorporate NQ software into Android phones. The stock continued climbing, eventually touching $22 a share in March. But the company shed all the gains since, and with the disappointing earnings– which were more than 30 percent below expectations – NQ plunged.
How far? Back to almost exactly where they were following Muddy Waters’ first accusations in October. As of 3 PM EST NQ’s stock was at $10.74 a share, down 15.51 percent on the day.
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