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Brazil's Americanas shares plunge pre-market on 'accounting inconsistencies'

By Paula Laier and Alberto Alerigi SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Shares in Brazilian retailer Americanas SA fell as much as 90% in a pre-market auction on Thursday after its chief...
Brazil's Americanas shares plunge pre-market on 'accounting inconsistencies' © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Americanas store logo is seen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes/File Photo
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By Paula Laier and Alberto Alerigi

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Shares in Brazilian retailer Americanas SA fell as much as 90% in a pre-market auction on Thursday after its chief executive officer resigned citing the discovery of "accounting inconsistencies" totaling 20 billion reais ($3.9 billion).

Outgoing CEO Sergio Rial, who replaced Miguel Gutierrez less than two weeks ago, said in a conference call with investors he had "clearly found some very important distortions" and signals of a lack of transparency from the previous management.

Chief Financial Officer Andre Covre, who had just joined Americanas as well, also left the firm long controlled by three Brazilian billionaires who founded 3G Capital.

Rial attributed the inconsistencies to differences in accounting for the financial cost of bank loans and debt with suppliers.

The outgoing CEO said Americanas would likely need a capital increase, though noting he didn't expect a short-term impact from the inconsistencies on its cash position.

Several analysts put their recommendations on the firm under review, while Brazil's securities regulator CVM said it had started two probes into the retailer to investigate the issues.

Separately, Americanas announced that former CVM director Octavio Yazbek, Vanessa Lopes and Pedro Melo would form an independent committee to investigate the matter.

Separately, Americanas said an independent committee was being formed to investigate the matter that would include former CVM director Octavio Yazbek.

Refinitiv data showed the theoretical price of Americanas shares at 2.10 reais each in a pre-market auction on Thursday, more than 80% down from 12 reais at Wednesday's close. Earlier, the stock fell as much as 90%.

Americanas' shares were set to remain in auction until 1:55 p.m. local time (1655 GMT), according to the Sao Paulo stock exchange. The auction deadline was extended several times during the morning.

Earlier in the day, XP (NASDAQ:XP) Investimentos, Bradesco BBI, Banco Safra and Itau BBA all placed Americanas under review following the news, while analysts at Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) moved it to "Not-Rated" from "Overweight," saying that an expected operating turnaround had become clouded.

Americanas in a securities filing late on Wednesday said it estimated the cash impact of the inconsistencies was not material, although internal inquiries and work by independent auditors would be needed to determine the impact of them on its financial statements.

"Even after the meeting with the company to clarify points mentioned in the filing, we still do not have enough visibility to detail the financial impact the revisions should have on the company's figures," analysts at XP Investimentos said.

Analysts at Santander (BME:SAN) and JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), who rated Americanas "Neutral" and "Underweight" respectively, also forecast a major negative reaction to the news.

"In sum, we see the company's cash flow situation, which was the reason why we recently downgraded the stock to UW, as much more delicate than anticipated," JPMorgan said.

PwC, Americanas' auditor, declined to comment on the accounting inconsistencies referred to by Rial.

($1 = 5.1600 reais)

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    EUR/CHF 0.9535 ↑ Buy  
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    Crude Oil WTI 76.57 ↑ Buy  
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    Natural Gas 1.582 ↑ Sell  
    US Coffee C 179.85 ↑ Sell  
    Euro Stoxx 50 4,872.25 Buy  
    S&P 500 5,088.80 ↑ Sell  
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    FTSE 100 7,706.28 ↑ Sell  
    Hang Seng 16,725.86 ↑ Sell  
    Small Cap 2000 2,016.69 ↑ Sell  
    IBEX 35 10,130.60 Buy  
    BASF 46.600 ↑ Buy  
    Bayer 28.82 ↑ Sell  
    Allianz 246.50 Buy  
    Adidas 188.78 Neutral  
    Lufthansa 7.381 ↑ Buy  
    Siemens AG 175.30 ↑ Sell  
    Deutsche Bank AG 12.390 Neutral  
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