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The quality of Chinese audits are not a source of worry, EY CEO says

Key Points
  • The Global Chairman and Chief Executive of EY, Mark Weinberger, says a lack of full oversight from regulators shouldn't be a problem for audits of Chinese based firms.
  • A number of Chinese-listed firms have sought finance by offering shares as collateral.
  • Recent losses in Chinese equities have pushed firms into forced sales of stocks.
EY CEO: Market volatility the result of global uncertainty

The chief executive of one of the "Big Four" accountancy agencies says he isn't worried about the quality of audits on companies doing business in China.

The Global Chairman and Chief Executive of EY, Mark Weinberger, told CNBC's Squawk Box Europe on Tuesday that he wasn't nervous about the quality of his firm's auditing work in China, despite concerns over the use of affiliate firms in the country that are harder to scrutinize and regulate.

"No, not the individual audits themselves. The risk in China is the huge levels of debt, the uncertainty in the overall economy," Weinberger said.

Audit companies like EY are themselves subject to oversight but the snag in China is that Beijing won't allow U.S. regulators to directly inspect the work of Chinese and Hong Kong affiliate accountants.

These affiliate firms are separate entities that regularly carry out audits on behalf of multinational accountancy giants, such as EY and its competitors.

There is concern that with no one checking the accountancy work of the local Chinese firms, auditing of both Chinese and foreign firms may not be up to international standards.

EY are considered one of "The Big Four" accounting firms that provide global professional services such as audit, accounting, taxation and management consulting. Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and PwC are the other three.

Weinberger said EY has 16-thousand employees in China and provide services to most of the IPOs that come onto the market.

The CEO conceded that living with China's local rules was "complicated" but stressed that he felt comfortable that his firm was meeting global standards while at the same time applying it appropriately to Chinese culture.

The health of Chinese businesses is under scrutiny as state-owned banks tighten lending amid concerns over excessive levels of corporate debt and trade war fears.

The Shenzhen Composite Index has plunged by around a third in value this year, driven lower by the fragility of firms who have secured financing by pledging vast amount of their shares as collateral.

The situation is considered a vicious circle as every loss in share value forces more shares to be sold, thereby accelerating losses.

According to the South China Morning Post, at least 32 companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses have now been forced to sell controlling stakes to the Chinese state as other avenues of funding have dried up.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He has attempted to calm markets by describing state ownership as a measure that can be reversed when business improves for private companies.