* NMC founder says firm holds itself to highest standards
* Shares in Finablr, with same founder as NMC, also slump
* Interactive graphic https://tmsnrt.rs/38QsAfK on NMC short
(Adds NMC founder's comment, share close, graphic)
By Noor Zainab Hussain and Stanley Carvalho
Dec 17 (Reuters) - U.S. short-selling firm Muddy Waters said
on Tuesday it had acquired a short position in NMC Health Plc
, criticising the healthcare group's financial statements
and wiping a third off the value of the company's share price.
The short seller questioned the value of the London-listed
firm's assets and cash balance, as well as its reported profits
and debts. Muddy Waters said in a research note that NMC's asset
purchase prices and capital expenditures were inflated.
NMC founder and Chairman Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty said in
an emailed statement sent to Reuters: "We hold ourselves to the
highest standards across our entire portfolio."
He said NMC, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, was
"committed to offering world class facilities and vital services
to all sections of the community."
Britain's financial watchdog declined to comment.
Shares in the healthcare provider closed 32.4% lower at
1,747.5 pence, capping a day at the bottom of London's bluechip
index. The company lost 1.75 billion pounds in value.
NMC, with operations in 17 countries, reported net debt and
payables of $1.89 billion at the end of 2018. NMC said in
October it expected double-digit revenue and core earnings
growth in 2020.
Muddy Waters, known in financial markets for declaring short
equity positions on the basis of its in-house research, said
NMC's reported cash balances could be "materially overstated"
and said its margins were "too good to be true" relative to
UAE-focused publicly traded firms Mediclinic and Aster
Shetty also founded Finablr, a London-listed
payments and foreign exchange company, whose shares closed 11%
lower on Tuesday. Shetty is also co-chairman of Finablr,
according to its website.
Finablr could not immediately be reached for comment.
Shetty owns 19.22% of NMC and 62.68% of Finablr, according
to Refinitiv data.
Broker Jefferies said on Monday its analysis of NMC accounts
suggested additional downside risk to the firm's reported
numbers. Jefferies said complex cross-holdings added "conviction
to our view that investors do not appreciate the risks" at NMC.
About 10% of NMC's outstanding shares were in short position
as of Dec. 13, according to FIS data. It was not immediately
clear how much of that short position was accounted for by Muddy
Waters, a company founded by American Carson Block.
Short sellers borrow shares and immediately sell them,
betting the price will fall. They then buy the shares back and
return them to the lender, aiming to pocket a capital gain.
Advocates say the practice puts a check on investor
over-confidence and corporate spin. Critics say it destabilises
markets because shortsellers have an interest in driving a
company's share price down.
Muddy Waters, which came to fame by betting against some
Chinese companies, took its first short position in a
London-listed company in August, when it bet against litigation
funder Burford Capital.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Stanley
Carvalho in Abu Dhabi, Kirstin Ridley and Carolyn Cohn in
London; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Edmund Blair)