Wiggins says sorry for accounts debacle

Its newly published annual report for the year to 31 March 2001 also outlines a major overhaul of the company’s corporate governance procedures.

The public apology by Wiggins, a major player in airport and leisure facility development, comes in the wake of the embarrassing restatement of its accounts in March this year forced by the UK’s financial reporting watchdog.

Invervention by the Financial Reporting Review Panel led to the company restating all its profits from 1995 to 2000, resulting in £35m being wiped off its 2000 results to create a £9.9m pre-tax loss. Millions of pounds were also wiped off profits for the prior five years, in each case creating a loss.

The panel forced the move, which led to a sharp drop in the company’s share price, over revenue recognition issues and pensions accounting.

In his annual report statement, chairman William Syson said: ‘We apologise for the confusion that this episode may have created in the minds of shareholders and others, and trust that this matter is now behind us.’

However, this is not necessarily the case. The Financial Services Authority is understood to be investigating whether or not Wiggins misled investors as a result of its accounting policies.

CIMA has also said it will look at the role of finance director Geoff Lansbury, who, according the annual report, enjoyed total remuneration of £326,000 for the year, compared to £277,000 in the year to 31 March 2000.

HLB Kidsons, the company’s auditor, also faces examination over its part in the affair. The accountants’ Joint Disciplinary Scheme has said it is to look at the role of ICAEW member firms and accountants, which include the firm and also non-executive director Lance Blackstone. He is a partner in City accountancy firm Blackstone Franks.

The company said that it had now strengthened its compliance and corporate governance procedures.

‘Action has been and is now being taken, in the light of developments in the last year, to ensure that the group fully complies with all requirements of the combined code in the future,’ the annual report said.


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