An announcement from the London Stock Exchange earlier today read:
"At the request of the company trading on AIM for the under-mentioned securities has been temporarily suspended from 16/03/2012 12:20pm, pending an announcement."
The follow up comment read...
"Further to the announcement earlier today regarding the suspension of its shares from trading on AIM, Worldspreads confirms that following a review of the Group's financial position, possible financial irregularities have been identified. Whilst the Group and its advisers investigate, Worldspreads has requested a suspension of its shares from trading pending its findings and clarification of the Group's financial position
Given the uncertainty as to the outcome, Worldspreads is currently unable to assess its financial position, and inform the market accordingly, and considers the suspension to be appropriate. The Group expects that the suspension will remain in force until such time as Worldspreads is able to determine with sufficient clarity the Group's financial position.
The Group has notified the FSA of these developments. Further announcements will be made in due course."
Share Trading Suspension
The suspensions comes just 2 days after the abrupt resignation of chief executive Conor Foley, the group's largest shareholder, whose resignation was preceded in February by chief financial officer Niall O'Kelly. The group had announced that it would report a loss for the year following an "unusual pattern of client trading".
The Telegraph reported that:
"Lindsay McNeile (co-founder of Sporting Index), who on Wednesday was named the company's executive chairman, said concerns were raised this morning when the new management was going through the group's numbers.
"They came across an issue in the financials that made them extremely uncomfortable and caused them to make the necessary reports to our regulator," he said. "It has hit us like a sledgehammer, it is [a] completely new [issue]."
WorldSpreads had already revealed that as of the end of last month it had not been paid €1.65m (£1.37m) which was due before Christmas relating to the managment buy-out of its Irish business.
The company did not detail what the possible irregularities were in its statement to the market today."
No comment was provided regarding the company's regulatory capital, nor regarding the safety of WorldSpreads client monies, however an updated is anticipated to be provided over the weekend.
Uncertainty exists over Foley's involvement in the incidents that have taken place, and the nature of the depatures of both Foley and O'Kelly in such a short space of time will undoubtedly get the rumour mill running on full capacity.
Foley co-founded WorldSpreads in 2000 and in 2007, floated the company on the London AIM market and then the Ireland IEX market a year later. According to a company statement, Foley left the company to 'pursue other interest'.
Foley was the majority shareholder in the company according to the listings provided at August 2010, and had increased his shareholdings to over 18% by Februrary 2011:
However, the company shareprice had taken a turn for the worst during the early stages of 2012:
A trading announcement at the end of Februrary combined with the departure of O'Kelly followed the share price dive, with Foley stating:
"Despite the successful implementation of our sales and marketing campaign, improving performance from our new overseas operations and the successful cost management structures in place, we are disappointed to report that revenues for the second half of the Group's financial year ended 31 March 2012, will be behind our previous expectations. Market conditions since 1 January 2012 have been such that, whilst transaction volumes have been high, revenues have not increased at the same pace. We continue to review the returns delivered by our trading strategy and are confident that the recent trend in our clients' trading results will reverse over the medium term.
Mr O'Kelly has made a major contribution to the development and growth of the Group over the past eight years. On behalf of the Board I'd like to thank Niall for his hard work and service."
Read the full February trading announcement here
Mr O'Kelly, who joined in 2004, had been due to work out a 12-month notice period but the company said yesterday that he had been released from his notice period and had now left the group.