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Good news on ASB Securities site

Glitch gone, updates in place and accurate

Update: 12 October 2000.

It’s happened. Now ASB Securities has the good answer I was looking for in response to questions about its presentation of financial information, in this case the balance sheet of the Newmarket Property Trust, provided by Australian firm Aspect Financial.

At last report the 1998 figures were incorrect and the 2000 figures were absent, though available. Now the balance sheets for 1998, 1999 and 2000 are all present and correct.

Update: 9 October 2000. Story and correspondence

Correction on ASB Securities site, old balance sheet still wrong, latest not provided

ASB Securities answers my criticism

ASB Securities’ provider of company information for its website, Aspect Financial, has corrected the balance sheet on the Newmarket Property Trust page for 1999, but seems to have figured the correction of one glitch for the trust’s 1998 balance sheet would see things right there too.

I wrote about this on 29 September and promised ASB Securities’ manager, online & discount share trading, Jane Woodroffe, that once I got a good answer, I’d run that too.

Ms Woodroffe feels that “good answer” was provided in email correspondence on 3 October, which I didn’t run on this website then, but do now.

My reason for not running it immediately was that the expectation that corrections would be made that night was not fulfilled.

I confess I didn’t check daily to see when the corrections were made, but one column is now corrected, the 1998 column has a glitch removed but incorrect figures throughout, with a $2.7 million difference in the bottom line from that contained in sets of figures I have from the company and exchange, and the 2000 figures are not presented, although they are available.

Ms Woodroffe believes the “good answer” has been provided. I don’t. Both ASB Securities and Aspect have responded promptly to inquiries and criticism, but one set of figures remains incorrect, and I don’t understand the continuing belief that they should wait for the annual report to come out before providing information which was available on 8 September.

This takes up a lot of space on a samples page, but as my original criticism has been placed there it’s reasonable for the rest of the argument to go there too for a few days.

Here’s the correspondence between Ms Woodroffe and myself, 3 and 9 October:

Email 3 October:

Dear Mr Dey,

Thank you for your email.

We have had word back from our correspondent at Aspect and it appears the data was doubled up for one data item and corrupted for some other data items when it was originally imported into Aspects system.

Aspect have corrected the error with the data and it will be updated in tonight’s release. Aspect have also checked other NZ companies to see if the same problem has occurred and it appears that this was an isolated case.

In reference to the issue of the currency of the data: Balance sheet data for FY2000 is missing as it has not yet been reported in the NZ prelim announcements from the NZSE. Aspect need to wait until they have the annual report to fill in the data completely. This has been on request from the company.

I hope this helps with your enquiry Mr Dey, and we thank you for your comments in regard to this matter and please accept our sincere apologies on behalf of ASB Securities for any confusion caused.

Kind Regards,

Jane Woodroffe
Manager, Online & Discount Share Trading.

Email 3 October:

Hi Jane,

Thanks for your message. I’ve also had messages from Andrew Bird in Sydney. As I’ve said to him, the preliminary report as sent to the exchange normally contains balance sheet details at sections 10-12, though if you’re only receiving an abbreviated form of announcements you won’t see it. For Newmarket, the report containing those details existed on 8 September. That’s why I questioned the currency of your site.

Regards,
Bob Dey.

Email 9 October:

Dear Mr Dey

We write further to your email of 30 September querying the accuracy of the Newmarket Property Trust details on the ASB Securities Website (which is provided by Aspect). You published your letter to ASB Securities & Aspect on your Website and stated “Assuming ASB Securities has a good answer, I’ll run that when I see it too.”

We then replied to you explaining “it appears the data was doubled up for one data item and corrupted for some other data items when it was originally imported into Aspects system. Aspect have corrected the error with the data and it will be updated in tonight’s release. Aspect have also checked other NZ companies to see if the same problem has occurred and it appears that this was an isolated case.

In reference to the issue of the currency of the data: Balance sheet data for FY2000 is missing, as it has not yet been reported in the NZ prelim announcements from the NZSE. Aspect needs to wait until they have the annual report to fill in the data completely. This has been on request from the company.”

We have not heard anything to suggest that our reply was not “a good answer” to the issues you raised. We now feel that we have adequately addressed the points you raised, and are concerned that you have left a headline displayed that may now be misleading. Also, you have published the letter you sent us in one of your sample reports without also publishing our response. Could you please advise what your intentions are in respect of either removing your headline and/or publishing our response. We are hopeful that you address this matter with the same timeliness you sought from ASB Securities Limited.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Jane Woodroffe
Manager, Online & Discount Sharetrading
ASB Securities Limited.

The earlier story, 29 September 2000

Wrong Newmarket details on ASB website raise concern over general accuracy

Slapdash balance sheet presentation, and way out of date

Preparing a story on National Property Trust’s annual meeting, I checked a few details on the Newmarket Property Trust, which it almost merged with early in 1999.

One place I checked today was ASB Securities’ website. There, I found completely erroneous information on Newmarket. I haven’t checked the presentation on other securities, but found that example alone bad enough not to trust any information on the site about New Zealand stocks provided by ASB Securities’ information provider, Aspect.

I have sent an email to both Aspect and ASB Securities. The message to ASB Securities is repeated below. I’ll check further, and check these details again because ASB Securities appears on this website’s page of External links.

The ASB Securities site does have value for other aspects of the site, so I haven’t removed it from my External links page. But without a quick and satisfactory response on the quality of information provided, you’ll find that link soon removed.

If you find serious absence of quality in other sites listed on the External links page, let the owner of that site, and me, know about it. We all make errors, and in a lightning-quick electronic age it’s easy not to realise until someone points it out.

I have highlighted the Aspect information because the way it is compiled seems to mean an error on one line will flow through to the bottom line, so errors become cumulative. That means checking should be even closer. The “latest update” date must be an automatically generated one, because they plainly haven’t looked at this page for a very long time.

ASB Bank owns Newmarket Property Trust, through Sovereign Assurance.

My email to ASB Securities, including email to Aspect:

I have just sent this email to your information provider, Aspect, after looking at the balance sheet under Newmarket Property Trust:

I notice your Newmarket Property Trust balance sheet, as provided on the ASB Securities website, is entirely fictitious and not up to date, although a latest update date of 28 September is presented on the page.
Can you indicate whether this is your normal practice for covering New Zealand stocks?
Thank you.

There is one obvious error in the balance sheet as produced by Aspect, a double-up of property and investments lines, which flows through to the bottom line. However, there are other lines which are completely at odds with the accounts presented by the company.

Aspect claims to have updated the page at 28 September, but there is no balance sheet for the 2000 year on its research page.

Inaccuracy to that degree in one stock’s balance sheet leaves me with the impression that it could easily be common, at least for Aspect’s coverage of New Zealand stocks.

As I run a website dedicated to property news (http://propbd.co.nz), I shall advise my subscribers of what I have found. Assuming ASB Securities has a good answer, I’ll run that when I see it too.

Regards,
Bob Dey.

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