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Watchstone £1 Disposal today - what that tells us about the Quindell fraud

By Tom Winnifrith, The Sheriff of AIM | Friday 8 January 2016

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from ShareProphets). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Watchstone Group (WTG), formerly known as Quenron (QPP) has today sold its property services business BE Insulated and Carbon Reduction Company for just £1. The statement is telling.

Firstly we discover that in the year to 30 September 2014 these business reported profits of c£1 million but that the £4.3 million goodwill in the business was largely written off earlier this year and its sale for just £1 will save £1.5-2 million a year in ongoing losses and cashburn.

That tells you everything. Watchstone blathers on about how, since it upped its stake from 50% to 100% in March 2015 ( who authorised that?), trading has been poor and the businesses loss making. Wow quite a turnaround. Lets cut the balacca.

Quindell got into property services via a string of deals undertaken by fraudster Rob Terry. I refer you to this article from 471 days ago showing just how dodgy these transactions were. Some of those companies bought have been wound down, and others have seen their assets transferred into what was sold today. The reality is that under Terry accounting they may have been profitable thanks to numerous related party transactions. But now looked at on a stand alone basis they are loss making cash burners.

The new management team is thus binning as many of them as they can. Bulls of Watschstone reckon that the residue businesses have a real value. They are fooling themselves. Businesses such as Himex are frauds. In due course they too will be closed or sold for £1 to stem cashburn, resulting in more - material - albeit non cash writedowns as the goodwill is written off.

Watchstone is doing the right thing in jettisoning the Terry junk but this process still has a long way to go. Meanwhile I know that the SFO is looking at the string of deals that got it into this business in the first place. The arrests of Terry, Rob Fielding and others is a matter of when not if.

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  1. The question that remains is are there any remaining businesses that are worth more than £1 and/or can be got rid of by merely giving them away,which would at least free up Watchstones remaining cash pile,less any risks from SFO,Legal Friends etc?
    The “New Brooms” have yet to give any trading updates or give even the slightest hint of any improvements.

  2. tom
    what are your thoughts on the WTG shareprice?

  3. Drunken Sailor

    WTG share price does not make a lot of sense. Taking account of the 90p return and the consolidation, before the return the rump of QPP post return was being valued by the market at about 70p post consolidation ie 97p minus 90p times 10 for the consolidation. There was a slight risk that the court would block the 90p, but it was always very small and would only have happened had SGH brought a suit against them for selling them a fraud and then petitioned the court to block it. So for the SP to shoot up to about 250p in the days following lifting of the suspension post court date was surprising. Then the chairman bought about £250k worth of shares, presumably using his 90ps from all the shares he was gifted when he was appointed. I believe the appointment was always supposed to be temporary so he will no doubt step down some time soon and then be able to flog them all without declaring as he has less than 3%. However in the meantime it has certainly sucked in the BBMs.

    I made WTG my sell recommendation for the year. I have not actually gone short yet, but I am considering doing so at the right time. If Rose steps down before results come out that would be my sign to get a short on PDQ.

  4. Let me assist ALEX

    Tom thinks it is worthless. I disagree.

  5. Let me assist FILTHY (and maybe also ALEX).

    Quindell/Watchstone, even with it’s new soaraway shareprice, has a market cap less than it’s cash. So all of those super duper businesses bought for squillions by Rob Terry are valued at zip by the market. Which has kind of been Tom’s point all along. TW was spot on.

    The cash that Quindell/Watchstone sits on has come from the Uber-Saps Slater & Gordon. I can’t even be bothered to go into how right Tom was on that one, but the market cap of S&G today is A$250m, and was I think A$1.2bn before it raised and splurged the same amount again of A$1.3bn on QPP PSD. Insolvency experts are now combing thru S&G books. Go figure girlfriend.

    Maybe Filthy, just maybe TW has been 100% spot on all the way through this, and were it not for the saps at S&G, we would have had a spectacular QPP implosion.

    As it happens, the S&G mugs give total whoppers like you the opportunity to come here and say TW somehow got it wrong, even though, from the points I make above, clearly TW was bang on the money throughout with his calls on QPP.

  6. Terry's All Sold

    There can objectively be no doubt that Tom Winnifrith has been – must be getting on for years now – and still is 100 percent right on QPP and its fraudulent predecessors, its subsequent re-incarnations and various ill-begotten bastard offspring. There really is nothing of any significant value under the smoke and mirrors and ducking and diving. Many, many millions of pounds have been not so surreptiously transferred from the accounts of gullible cultists like Filthy and his ilk (and no doubt from decent-ish folks as well) into the back pockets of Terry and his greedy immediate associates. All on the back of a ‘business model ‘(chuckle and ho-ho) that is today even yet more built on sand than it ever was. And it always was..

    Terry and his compadres, for the good of all, do need to have their collars felt, although no doubt the punishment will ultimately fail to be commensurate with the crimes inflicted on others. Such is vexing modern life.

    But as ever in human affairs, a number of perplexing mysteries remain. And unfortunately probably always will. Just who was that ginger headed bloke on the grassy knoll? What really happened to the Marie Celeste? More mysteriously yet, just what on earth inspired the berserk lunatics at Slater + Gordon to buy this toxic mess? They can hardly ask for their money back now, as the admission that they have been sold a complete pup will inevitably wipe off a good portion of the remaining ‘value’ of their own tottering business. I can only offer three possibilities, none of which are mutually exclusive:

    One, Australians tend to be a bit dim, gung-ho and unsophisticated. With the exception of the sainted John Hempton and his gang, maybe they do tend that way. Doubt it though, overall, more likely S+G prefer to portray themselves (possibly now only to themselves) as just opportunists.

    Two, S+G are the antipodean version of QPP. Quite likely, this one.

    Three, it is more or less theinevitable poisonous outcome of combining the volatile chemicals of commodisation and ignorant band wagon investing.

    There will actually be a fascinating history of folly, greed and delusions of grandeur to be written here. Only of course for those who are able and willing to try to learn the lessons of history. Might be a worthy retirement job for Tom Winnifrith when the dust finally settles years hence? Maybe he would be just too triumphalist to be an impartial historian. But, whatever, a good working title might simply be Greed and Ignorance. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all it is.

  7. I am struggling to get to grips with this one….

    Ben Williams trousers nearly £3m in March for 50% of a loss making company then buys it back 10 months later for a quid.

    Disregarding the question why WTG bought it in the first place – Why would he want to buy it back and take on the staff and overheads? I would do a runner with the cash if it were me and let WTG sort the mess out.

    I am probably missing something here but I would be nervous if my livelihood depended on a salary from the newly named ‘BE Smart Group Ltd’.

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