Slater & Gordon freezes shares after delay in H1 accounts

Slater & Gordon has suspended the trading of its shares until the release of its half-year results.

The Australian listed firm adopted a voluntary suspension of its shares after admitting it would not be able to release its half-year accounts until after trading ends on Friday.

Slater & Gordon’s last audited accounts revealed its borrowings were 14.2 per cent higher than its annual revenue, with borrowing standing at A$716.6m (£369.2m) while revenue was only A$627.3m.

The largest proportion of the borrowings is made up of a secured cash advance facility totalling A$710.5m. A banking syndicate made up of Westpac Banking Corporation and National Australian Bank provided the facility, which is secured to the firm’s assets.

In comparison the firm’s income included A$486.2m of fee revenue for services rendered and A$20.5m in services revenue. The remaining A$120.57m consists of net movement in work in progress, gains from bargain purchases and other income.

The firm’s results will be released after trading on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has ended on Friday 26 February. As a result Slater & Gordon has ceased the trading of its shares until 29 February.

Slater & Gordon company secretary Moana Weir was required to formally request the voluntary suspension in writing to the ASX.

In the letter Weir said: “The reason for the request is that there are certain material items in the half year results which are not yet finalised, including, as foreshadowed in December, testing and assessment of the goodwill values for impairment of the UK business. SGH [Slater & Gordon Holdings] continues to work with its auditors and external advisors to finalise and confirm those material items, and is not in a position to make an announcement until that work is concluded.”

Slater & Gordon’s share price currently stands at A$0.83. Since March 2015 shares in the firm have fallen by 89.4 per cent from a high of A$7.85.

In December the firm announced that its profits for the 2015/16 financial year would be lower than the firm had originally forecast. The firm stated that this was due to poor November trading results across its UK business.

November also saw Slater & Gordon’s share price plummet 52 per cent overnight following the UK Government’s Autumn Statement. The announcement saw Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne set out plans to remove the right to general damages for minor injuries.

This was not the only time Slater & Gordon’s share price had taken a hit. Investors shied away from the firm after the Financial Conduct Authority opened an investigation into an overstatement of insurance outsourcer Quindell’s profits. Slater & Gordon acquired Quindell’s legal services arm for £700m last year.

After the news of the investigation shares in Slater & Gordon fell from A$6.13 to A$5.06.

The investigation was later ended in order to make way for a criminal investigation from the Serious Fraud office. An investigation carried out by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission is still underway.