(Bloomberg) -- Short seller Viceroy Research, which has targeted companies from Australia to the U.S., was accused of plagiarism in a report issued on Thursday by Intellidex (Pty) Ltd., a South African research and media company.
The report found almost identical wording in sections of Viceroy’s report on Steinhoff International Holdings NV as those contained in an analysis six months earlier by Portsea Asset Management LLP, according to Intellidex, which has offices in London, Boston and Johannesburg. Viceroy founder Fraser Perring said by phone that the allegation is inaccurate. The firm is preparing a statement, it said on its Twitter feed.
Viceroy’s report into Steinhoff, released on the night the global retailer announced accounting irregularities, gave the short seller “considerable influence” in the South African market because it was so widely spread in the days that followed and provided some explanation of what had happened at the company, Intellidex said. Steinhoff’s shares have plunged 94 percent since it disclosed the irregularities in December.
In its response to Intellidex, Viceroy said it is sent “significant amounts of data anonymously,” some of which may come from funds, that is included in its research. Intellidex said London-based Portsea didn’t respond to a request for comment. The hedge-fund manager didn’t immediately respond to a request from Bloomberg News for comment.
Viceroy’s influence won’t be sustained because the quality of its work varies so widely, Intellidex said. The reports range from coherent and robust calculations on Syrah Resources Ltd. to weak methodology that relies “on little more than anecdotes, ad hominem attacks on management and no attempt at balanced assessment," like with Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Intellidex said.
The study was commissioned by Business Leadership South Africa, a lobby group including chief executive officers of some of the country’s largest businesses, to provide insight into short-selling activities in the country, Intellidex said.
The four authors of the report, including Intellidex Chairman Stuart Theobald, also called into question the credentials of Viceroy’s three members and the company’s business model. The company seems to be working with hedge funds and other short sellers to generate negative publicity while taking on the legal risk that comes with that, Intellidex said.
Perring didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions sent by Bloomberg News about the other allegations on Thursday.
Viceroy works with journalists by giving them embargoed copies of their reports so these are published simultaneously with their release, Intellidex said. “This serves to amplify the impact of Viceroy’s research,” it said. “Indeed, it is often the media coverage, rather than the reports themselves, that move the share prices of its targets.”
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