By Jan Schwartz
HAMBURG (Reuters) - Aurubis saw around 500 million euros ($542 million) wiped off its market value on Friday after Europe's largest copper producer said it suspected a criminal gang had stolen some of its metal.
Shares in the group were down 14% at 1030 GMT, at their lowest level in nearly 10 months, after the company said it would miss its full-year profit guidance having found what it described as "considerable discrepancies" in inventories.
Aurubis had said in June that several employee workspaces and the on-site offices of contractors at its Hamburg site were searched as part of an investigation into a suspected organised theft ring.
"During a scheduled review of metal inventories, Aurubis has identified considerable discrepancies in target inventory as well as in individual samples from specific shipments of input materials for the recycling area," it said late on Thursday.
"This evidence has led Aurubis to conclude that it has been the target of further criminal activity following the cases reported in June 2023. Aurubis has involved the State Office of Criminal Investigation."
The company said reviews of recycling materials, including the measured levels of components such as copper, gold and silver, indicated that certain samples had been manipulated and that scrap suppliers had received too much money, a spokesperson for the group said.
Aurubis expects the result of a far-reaching inventory check at the end of September.
The company said the related damages could be in the low, three-digit millions of euros, and the losses would impact its fiscal 2022/23 results. It said it would not reach its target for operating earnings before tax of 450-550 million euros.
Germany's second-largest steelmaker Salzgitter, which holds a 29.99% stake in Aurubis, also suspended its financial guidance, sending its shares 1.6% lower.
($1 = 0.9217 euros)
(Additional reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh in Bengaluru and Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; Editing by Leslie Adler and Mark Potter)