Olam refutes claims of Enron-style collapse

Olam International on Wednesday said there was no risk of it becoming insolvent after a US research firm warned that the Singapore farm commodities giant could collapse like US energy trader Enron.

"Olam faces no risk of insolvency. We have proactively planned for an appropriate capital structure and raised the requisite equity and debt to meet our investment plans," it said in a posting to the Singapore Exchange.

"We have sufficient liquidity to pursue our current business as well as future investment plans," it said, adding that accounting practices also called into question by Muddy Waters fully adhere to Singapore's standards.

The statement was issued following a temporary trading halt sought by Olam, whose shares fell six percent on Tuesday after Muddy Waters, a US firm founded by influential short-seller Carson Block, released a scathing 133-page report.

The shares continued to drop on Wednesday despite the Olam rebuttal, falling a further 1.6 percent more than an hour after they resumed trading.

The report was released despite a libel suit launched by Olam in Singapore's High Court following Block's remarks at a London business conference last week that Olam was in danger of collapse.

Olam said Wednesday that the report was aimed at creating investor panic and enabling "Carson Block and his associates to benefit from their short positions in Olam securities -- a strategy of shouting fire in a crowded room".

In its report, Muddy Waters said Olam faced a "significant risk" of default and likened it to Enron, which collapsed in 2001 amid government and congressional probes into its accounting practices, in one of the biggest scandals in US corporate history.

"We value Olam on a liquidation basis because we believe its value is less than its debt, and that it is at significant risk of defaulting on its obligations," the report said.

"We believe that the single biggest factor in Enron's collapse was its use of accounting techniques similar to Olam's value gains," the report said.

"Both companies appear to have tried to scale their trading businesses too far and too fast, which resulted in substantial cash burns."

It said that in the event of a bankruptcy, recoverable assets for unsecured creditors of Olam would likely be 45.8 cents to the dollar.

Olam, which reported sales revenues of Sg$17.1 billion ($14 billion) in its 2012 financial year, accused Muddy Waters on Wednesday of taking facts out of context and described its conclusions as "without merit".

The company said its business model, which was also questioned by Muddy Waters, was working.

"Therefore we intend to stay the course," Olam stressed.

Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings is one of Olam's biggest shareholders, owning 16 percent as of March 31.

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