Transport group Go-Ahead halts trading of its shares after failing to file its financial results
Transport group Go-Ahead has halted the trading of its shares after it failed to file its financial results.
The business, which operates some of the UK’s key rail and bus routes, was plunged into crisis last year after the Government uncovered a £25million breach of its Southeastern railway franchise agreement.
Go-Ahead was stripped of the contract to operate the commuter line in September, after it emerged that it had not declared more than £25million of taxpayer funding which should have been returned.
All stop: Transport group Go Ahead was plunged into crisis last year after the Government uncovered a £25m breach of its Southeastern railway franchise agreement
Though the money has now been paid back, Go-Ahead referred itself to the Serious Fraud Office and its finance boss stepped down with immediate effect.
In an announcement to investors yesterday, Go-Ahead said its auditor Deloitte needed more time to finalise its financial results for the year ending July 3.
City rules state that a firm only has six months to file those statements, before its shares must be suspended from trading.
Go-Ahead said it ‘intends to request a restoration of the listing’ when the results are filed, and that it was working closely with Deloitte to ensure they were ‘published as soon as possible’ – hopefully before the end of the month.
The Southeastern franchise runs vital commuter routes connecting London with Kent and East Sussex.
It was run by Govia, a joint venture majority-owned by Go-Ahead and minority-owned by French group Keolis, before being taken over by the Government’s operator of last resort in October.
The pair are still running another rail contract, Govia Thameslink, which operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express trains.
Go-Ahead also has a vast bus network, operating routes in towns and cities across the country.
The issue which landed Go-Ahead in trouble was ‘variable track access charges’ – fees that Southeastern pays to a group of private investors in return for using the high-speed tracks known as HS1.
Under the terms of the contract, the Government pays Southeastern a fee, which it passes on to HS1. Any extra cash left over was meant to be returned to the tax man, but this was withheld.
Errors have been identified dating back as far as 2014.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps slammed Go-Ahead, saying there was ‘clear, compelling and serious evidence that Southeastern railway has breached the trust that is absolutely fundamental to the success of our railways’.
And critics have called for the firm to be stripped of its other contracts. Go-Ahead’s chairman, Clare Hollingsworth, apologised to the Government, saying she ‘recognised that mistakes have been made’.
The shares were suspended at 667p, down 68.8 per cent from two years ago.