* Viceroy Research alleges Capitec overstates assets, income
* Capitec says report is flawed, inaccurate
* Central bank says Capitec “solvent, well capitalised” (Adds comments by Viceroy founder in final paragraph)
By Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Capitec dismissed allegations on Tuesday by U.S. firm Viceroy Research that it overstates its assets and income, while South Africa’s central bank vouched for the financial health of the country’s No.5 lender by market value.
“We are studying the (Viceroy) report systematically and are still seeking clarity on some of the allegations,” Capitec said. “It is important to note that the report is flawed with inaccurate statements,” it added in a stock exchange statement.
Capitec, whose top shareholder is South African investment heavyweight PSG Group, also said it had lodged a complaint with the country’s capital market regulator, the Financial Services Board, over the Viceroy report.
Founded in 2001, Capitec has grown rapidly by focusing on low income South Africans who use its branches to deposit their wages and take out unsecured loans.
Viceroy, which describes itself on its website as “a group of individuals that see the world differently”, came to prominence in December when it questioned the finances of Steinhoff, the South African multinational retailer which later revealed it had “accounting irregularities”.
Capitec shares, a must-have for fund managers in Africa’s most liquid capital market, largely recovered from a 25 percent slide prompted by Viceroy’s call on South Africa’s central bank and finance minister to put Capitec into curatorship, saying it had overstated its loan book and understated defaults.
Shares in Capitec, which in September last year reported a 17 percent rise in half-year earnings on steady growth in client numbers, closed 2.9 percent lower at 915.92 rand.
South Africa’s central bank, which regulates lenders in Africa’s most industrialised economy, rallied behind Capitec, saying the company’s financial health was intact.
“According to all the information available, Capitec is solvent, well capitalised and has adequate liquidity. The bank meets all prudential requirements,” the South African Reserve Bank said in a statement.
Viceroy, which did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, alleged in the report that Capitec overstated its loan book by as much as 3 billion rand ($250 million) a year by issuing new loans to defaulting clients.
Capitec would need to write off 11 billion rand of its loan book to accurately represent the delinquencies and risks in its portfolio, Viceroy added.
Capitec said it had only received the report at 0800 GMT on Tuesday and that Viceroy had not discussed any of its claims.
“I’ve got a concern if a report comes out and there are a lot of inaccuracies and they’re not prepared to talk to us,” Capitec’s chief executive Gerrie Fourie.
“And when you short a stock and then bring out a report, there is for sure a profit motive but I don’t know their real motives,” Fourie told a news conference in Cape Town.
Viceroy’s Fraser Perring told Bloomberg TV his company has a short position on Capitec’s stock, meaning it could profit from any decline in the share price. ($1 = 11.9795 rand) (Additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg, Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Editing by James Macharia and Alexander Smith)