As NQ CFO Bails, the Questionable Plot Thickens

China Internet
Source: Thinkstock
China’s leading mobile Internet security services provider, NQ Mobile Inc. (NYSE: NQ) announced Friday morning that the company’s chief financial officer has resigned effective August 22, 2014 for family reasons. Until a permanent successor is appointed, NQ Mobile’s co-founder and COO will take over as acting CFO.

The company’s stock price has plummeted 72% since late October 2013 when short seller Muddy Waters LLC initiated coverage on the company with a Sell rating and a price target of zero, calling the company a “massive fraud.”

NQ Mobile has fought back, but the early July resignation of the chairwoman of the company’s audit committee and the expansion of an independent audit review of the company’s 2013 financial statements have continued to weigh down the share price. In late June ,the company fired its auditing firm.

The company did get some good news in late July in the form of a buyout offer from from Bison Capital Holding Co. Ltd. to acquire all of NQ’s outstanding shares and ADSs (one ADS is equal to five ordinary shares) in an all-cash deal of $9.80 per ADS. That was a 42% premium to the previous day’s closing price of $6.90, and pencils out to around $590 million for the total deal.

Bison Capital has offices in Los Angeles and New York, and it is based in Beijing. The company’s founder is Xu Peixin, who also sits on the board of China firms Bona Film Group Ltd. and AirMedia Group Inc. In a fact sheet on the Bison Capital website, the firm claims it makes investments of $10 million or more in companies with an EBITDA run-rate of $5 million or more. NQ’s trailing 12-month run rate is $1.46 million.

Investors were not thrilled with Bison’s offer, thinking perhaps it is so high that Bison Capital can’t be serious. Shares closed at $6.41 on Thursday night, and Friday morning’s announcement of the CFO’s departure has dropped the shares more than 12% to $5.63 in the pre-market session. The stock’s 52-week range is $3.45 to $25.90.

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