Wirecard AG would not exist without Markus Braun. The company’s beginnings were modest in 1999. Only with the entry of the Austrian did the steady rise begin, which ended in September 2018 in the first Börsenliga. The boss and largest shareholder of the specialist group for digital payment channels has proven to be a real pioneer entrepreneur for many years – focused on nothing other than the company’s success, ruthless and very successful.
But since Wirecard has been among the Dax 30 companies, Braun has failed completely. The never-ending chain of financial inconsistencies, questionable items in an unclear list, quarrels with the auditors, completely unexpected ad hoc reports and postponed compulsory publications have made the company a game ball for speculators. The renewed, not plausibly justified cancellation of the previously postponed balance sheet for 2019 this week leaves even the fans of Braun at a loss. The greatest favor that Braun could do to his company would be his own resignation.
No chance of sustained improvement
For a few weeks now there has been a new chairman of the supervisory board and some changes in the board of Wirecard AG. The boss’s tensioners even scattered the daring thesis that Braun had been “disempowered” by these personnel decisions. But a man like Braun, to whom former employees easily attest autistic traits, cannot be easily displaced. As long as the graduate business IT specialist walks in and out of the company headquarters in Aschheim, Bavaria, everything depends on him. Who, as an employed manager, should seriously stand up to a billionaire who holds over seven percent of Wirecard shares?
A solution would be easier if Wirecard were only concerned with a few, clearly and clearly localizable problems. But in the past two years, the company has lost so much trust, destroyed so much brand capital and shaken so many shareholders that, with the current management, there is no longer any chance of sustained improvement, even with goodwill.
Wirecard problems do not vanish into thin air
This is all the more fatal because the company’s business model works well. If the balance sheet figures are even close enough, which is known up to now, the profitability of the group is higher than with any other Dax 30 group. If. The fact that you can only make a statement about the core figures of a company with such a disclaimer shows the full extent of the loss of trust.
One can imagine many very different forecasts for the further development of the company – only one in no case: that the current problems will eventually disappear, the permanent critics will end the polemic against Wirecard, the numerous plaintiffs withdraw their complaints, the short sellers theirs Remove positions weeping quietly and something like normal returns. Not as long as Braun stays in office. And maybe not even afterwards.
Bernd Ziesemer is a capital columnist. The business journalist was editor-in-chief of the Handelsblatt from 2002 to 2010. He was then Managing Director of the corporate publishing division of Hoffmann and Campe until 2014. Ziesemer’s column appears regularly on Personal-Financial.com. Here you can follow him on Twitter.