Analysis: Accounting risk clouds big U.S. business bets in China

Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:30pm EST
 

By Dena Aubin and Lawrence White

NEW YORK/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Tales of shady business practices abound in China - fake revenues, phony invoices, sham factories - but until recently, the problem seemed confined mostly to Chinese companies.

No longer.

Concern is growing about risks to U.S.-based multinationals in a country where American audit regulators are locked out by the Chinese government and bribery and fraud are routine.

Questions about transparency and integrity weigh heavily on China, the world's second-largest economy, as it assumes greater economic leadership and responsibility. These doubts test its ability to adhere to international standards.

Stories of business deception - confirmed by corporate sleuths, former business executives, court filings and experts on accounting in China - are commonplace.

There was the Chinese company that billed itself as a high-tech television screen manufacturer, but had a factory that turned out to be a man selling fireworks from a shack.

Or there was the Chinese biodiesel plant that sat idle for months, then sprang to life one day - when investors showed up for a tour - only to fall silent again.

Last month, there was the scandal at a Chinese unit of Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N: Quote), the world's largest construction equipment manufacturer, based in Peoria, Illinois.   Continued...

 
CAT machines are seen on a lot at Milton CAT in North Reading, Massachusetts January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi