Well, the pun would normally be “here’s a fishy tale”, or perhaps, “the one didn’t get away” at the news that Honda has owned up to losses of $A180 million (about ¥15 billion ), dating back seven years of trading in prawns and fish.
Honda trading in seafood; what for corporate sushi or sashimi? After looking twice at the filing, I read on to find out that the car giant has been forced to go back to 2004 and restate earnings and other financial detail to account for the losses.
The losses were incurred in a subsidiary called Honda Trading Corporation, which normally buys raw materials and parts for the group’s far-flung manufacturing businesses including cars, bikes, engines etc.
But for the past 11 years, it has also been allowed to trade in food and health areas and it’s in the food security business (a curious phrase) that the fishy stuff occurred.
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In the statement on the website, Honda “apologised deeply for causing great worry and trouble”. (To shareholders and the fish involved?)
Honda said the improper trading involved an inventory management service offered by Honda Trading to seafood wholesalers and distributors that saw Honda Trading buying excess inventory from wholesale seafood companies and storing it at its warehouses until the companies find buyers to distribute it to supermarkets, restaurants and other retail operators. Honda would then resell the seafood stocks to the wholesalers, adding a margin.
In some cases, however, Honda Trading paid wholesalers “far above the market price”, then failed to sell the purchased seafood back to the original client, Honda said (for obvious reasons, who wants to pay the same high price you got when the seafood can be bought for less?).
Rather than take a loss, the section of HT then engaged in a bit of circular trading, flicking the seafood from one fictitious buyer to another so that a legit sale, which would produce a loss, was never actually completed.
It sounds like another version of the cheque round robin, where cheques are written and paid into various accounts to prevent a loss from occurring (usually around a balance date for the business concerned).
The stocks of fish and prawns, etc, are probably not only overstated, but they are probably well past their use-by date, a bit whiffy, even being frozen and unsaleable.
Honda said the ¥15 billion loss would be taken against pre-tax earnings for the current financial year ending in March.
This would have to be one of the oddest business stories for years. No one could have thought of a boring and fairly conservative company such as Honda (making cars and bikes is really prosaic manufacturing at best) being involved in fish trading.
Did Honda in fact end up with the ones that John West rejected (sorry)?