Rural Funds Management has announced it is commencing legal action against US-based activist short seller Bonitas Research, after an independent investigation by Ernst & Young (EY) said the assertions made against the group were not substantiated.
Rural Funds Management leases $1 billion of agricultural assets to a range of corporate agribusinesses including JBS and AACo and operates six funds including Australia’s largest rural property trust RFF.
Earlier this month Bonitas Research released a report accusing Rural Funds Group of fabricating rental income, overstating the value of its assets and siphoning profits away from the company. The report sent the RFF share price crashing by 42 percent from $2.35 per share to $1.36.
Shares in RFF were halted before the company issued a response denying the accusations, and indicating an independent review of Bonitas’ claims would be conducted by EY. RFM directors took the opportunity to demonstrate their faith in the company by increasing their personal shareholdings when the trading halt was lifted two days later.
The results of EY’s independent investigation were released this morning, showing the firm found the assertions contained within the Bonitas document were not substantiated, and corroborating the statements released by Rural Funds Group rejecting Bonitas’ allegations.
In a release to the ASX today the Rural Funds Group announced it has instructed law firm Clayton Utz to commence legal action against Bonitas for “misleading and deceptive conduct” as a result.
“The independent investigation conducted by EY concludes that the assertions contained within the Document are not substantiated,” the statement said.
“Further, EY have corroborated the response provided by RFM on 7 August 2019. The full report prepared by EY is attached.
“RFM has instructed Clayton Utz to commence action against Bonitas Research LLC for its deliberate and malicious publication of the Document, which RFM contends constitutes misleading and deceptive conduct in Australia in respect of RFF securities.”
As of this afternoonRFF shares were trading at $2.09.