On 26 March, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a policy statement which, in effect, gives listed companies an additional two months to finalise their annual report and accounts. It states that it will not suspend the listing of companies if they publish financial statements within six months of their year-end.
The FCA has published an updated version of Primary Market Bulletin No. 27 to reflect this change but has said that it does not currently extend to half yearly financial reports.
Currently, under the Transparency Directive, companies have four months from their financial year-end in which to publish audited financial statements, but this temporary relief will extend this to six months due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The FCA emphasises, however, the overriding importance of the Market Abuse Regulation and that companies are still required to fulfil their obligations concerning inside information as soon as possible, unless a valid reason to delay disclosure under the regulation exists. As their statement says, ‘Companies must continue to assess carefully what information constitutes inside information at this time, recognising that the global pandemic and policy responses to it may alter the nature of information that is material to a business’s prospects.’
Helpfully, the FCA goes on to recognise that different companies will be in different positions and ‘We urge market participants not to draw undue adverse inferences when companies make use of the extra time our temporary relief gives them. For a great many companies it will be a sensible decision to make in unprecedented times.’
The full FCA statement can be found at: www.fca.org.uk/news/statements/delaying-annual-company-accounts-coronavirus