Samsonite accused of 'massaging profits'

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Shares in Samsonite International have tumbled after an investor claimed the world's largest luggage maker had questionable accounting practices and poor corporate governance.

Blue Orca Capital said the owner of brands including Tumi and American Tourister had concealed slowing growth.

It also accused the firm of massaging profits and inflating margins.

Samsonite said the allegations were "one-sided and misleading" and its conclusions were incorrect.

The company said it would provide additional information in due course and "reserves its right to take legal action against Blue Orca Capital and/or those responsible" for the 48-page report.

Timothy Parker, chairman of Samsonite, said the report "contained the opinions of a short seller whose interests may not be aligned with those of shareholders in general, and that it may be intended specifically to undermine confidence in the company and its management, and to harm its reputation".

"We intend to draw a line under this matter as quickly as possible, and move on to focus on ... the future growth of our business".

Short selling involves investors borrowing an asset, such as shares, from another investor and then selling that asset hoping the price will fall.

The aim is to buy back the asset at a lower price and return it to its owner, pocketing the difference.

Shares fell about 12% in Hong Kong before being suspended following a request from Samsonite. The stock is expected to start trading again on Friday.

Blue Orca said Samsonite was worth HK$17.59 a share - 43% below its last traded price of HK$30.70. The average analyst target price is about HK$38.

"Samsonite is a mid-level brand masquerading as a premium luxury player," Blue Orca said. "Samsonite is more sensibly compared to a peer group of mid-tier brands."

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Last week, Samsonite posted an 18.6% rise in profit to $43.9m for the three months to March on a 15.5% rise in sales excluding currency movements.

Texas-based Soren Aandahl is behind Blue Orca and previously co-founded Glaucus Research, which has taken aim at several companies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Samsonite floated in Hong Kong in 2011, raising US$1.25bn that was used to pay down debt. Along with Prada it is one of the few big foreign companies listed on the exchange.

Private equity firm CVC bought Samsonite for $1.7bn in 2007 shortly before the credit crunch struck.

The resulting downturn hit Samsonite sales and Royal Bank of Scotland ended up with a 30% stake in the company following a debt restructuring.

Two years ago Samsonite bought luxury rival Tumi in a $1.8bn (£1.3bn) deal

The firm was founded by US trunk maker Jesse Shwayder in Denver, Colorado, in 1910.

One of his first cases was called Samson, after the biblical figure known for his strength, and was designed to withstand the hardships of travelling through America's West.

Samsonite specialises in lightweight but durable luggage for air travellers and claims to be the first company to have put wheels on a suitcase.

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