Zhongwang Holdings, the mainland aluminium producer battling accusations it misstated sales data when it listed on the Hong Kong stock market, has delayed publishing an independent inquiry into the matter. The firm's shares fell 5.5 per cent yesterday, to HK$5.81. They have dropped 20 per cent since Monday. The company hired Ernst & Young to review its sales figures early last month and told investors in a November 10 conference call that the study would take five weeks. The five weeks were up on Tuesday. In September, mainland newspaper the China Economic Observer claimed in a report, which it later retracted, that none of the top 10 customers named in Zhongwang's prospectus for its initial public offering bought from the company last year. After missing the self-imposed deadline to make Ernst & Young's findings public, Zhongwang executives have now briefed analysts that Ernst & Young will not be able to complete the audit for another two to three weeks, an analyst and one of the firm's investors confirmed. 'The length of time still needed to complete the audit is a huge concern. I am out of the stock now,' a foreign fund manager who bought into the IPO said. Zhongwang declined to comment, as did Ernst & Young and UBS, the lead investment bank on the company's IPO. In May, the aluminium extrusion firm raised HK$9.8 billion in its HK$7-a-share Hong Kong initial public offering. Chairman Liu Zhongtian's 71 per cent stake in the company was worth HK$26.52 billion at the time of the IPO. The fall in the stock's price this week has wiped HK$5.41 billion off the value of Liu's shareholding. Liu, a low-profile company boss who is little-known within the aluminium industry, could not be reached for comment. While the mainland newspaper apologised to Zhongwang for its story, the IPO prospectus showed some of the aluminium company's customers had made orders that seemed very large. It said that in 2008, Zhongwang sold 497 million yuan (HK$564.45 million) of products to Xian Yingqiang Power Engineering Material. In its 2008 companies registry filing, the latter firm stated its sales last year were 23 million yuan. Another customer, Shaanxi Jungle Aluminum, said in its 2007 companies registry filing, the last available, that sales for that year were 77.5 million yuan. Zhongwang's IPO prospectus said the aluminium company's revenues from Shaanxi Jungle last year were 439 million yuan. In e-mailed replies on October 31 and November 1 to questions about both customers' registry filings, Vincent Cheung Lap-kei, Zhongwang's finance director, said all the sales data in his company's prospectus was accurate. Asked yesterday for comment about his firm's share price fall and the delayed audit report, Cheung declined to comment. In the November 10 conference call with investors, Cheung said of the Ernst & Young audit: 'We expect a result within five weeks.' He said Zhongwang had only ordered the Ernst & Young review because journalists were disturbing the firm's customers with queries about the sales data in the IPO prospectus. 'We didn't think it was necessary to appoint an independent auditor, but some of our clients told us they were being disturbed by media about his issue so we think the impact [on customers] is quite large,' he said. During the private conference call, a recording of which the South China Morning Post has reviewed, Cheung promised the results of the audit would be made public. 'We appointed EY to give [the] result to media, investors and [the] market and after that we won't make further comments on this issue,' he said. The company was confident no problems would be found, he said.