Taking Stock: Spotting accounting flaws is child’s play

A 17-year-old schoolboy has achieved what the auditors of Spanish engineering and renewable energy giant Abengoa could not – predict the company’s possible collapse a year ago.

According to reports in The Guardian, Pepe Baltá, a secondary school student in Barcelona, spotted discrepancies in Abengoa accounts – apparently overlooked by auditors Deloitte – as part of an economics project.

“If it does not act soon, there is a strong risk Abengoa will go into bankruptcy,” Baltá wrote in an 18-page analytical report on Abengoa for 2012 and 2013.

“I have some accounting knowledge,” he told El Mundo newspaper, “and Abengoa’s accounts did not seem to add up. There was a lot of debt and few active assets compared to fixed ones. The big surprise was that negative profits were being converted into positives. I didn’t understand how they could do that.”

The troubled outfit filed for bankruptcy protection last month and banks have employed KPMG to examine its accounts to get a clearer understanding of its financial position.

Baltá said neither Abengoa nor Deloitte have tried to recruit him. “I don’t know if it’s because they haven’t heard of me or because they’d rather not have anything to do with an 18-year-old boy,” he said.

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