New temporary rules have thrown a lifeline to troubled agencies like Countrywide and Purplebricks which may need to raise additional funds in the near future.
Both agencies are quoted on the London Stock Exchange and they, along with all other listed firms, have been offered a series of measures to help them raise new funding - if they require it - while still offering existing and future investors protection.
The measures, from the Financial Conduct Authority, mean that:
- companies can apply for FCA waivers to avoid having to hold general meetings during the current period of social distancing. In December, for example, Countrywide had to hold a general meeting to secure shareholder agreement to sell its commercial arm, Lambert Smith Hampton - although that sale collapsed eventually;
- there will be a relaxation of ‘working capital statements’ given by firms. These tell investors whether or not a company may have sufficient working capital for at least 12 months ahead - a process that typically requires substantial due diligence. The FCA now says “the uncertainty created by the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic impact of the public policy response makes the financial modelling underpinning the working capital statement uniquely challenging.” So instead, there will be Coronavirus-related ‘working assumptions’ published to give investors qualified information;
- companies will require to give more simplified reports “recognising that the investor base has access to a range of information already relating to the issuer, remove the need to include information such as organisational structure, capital resources, remuneration and benefits and board practices.”
This new guidance came into operation yesterday, but with a significant caveat: “The FCA reminds market participants and issuers that during the period in which these temporary measures apply, they continue to be subject to the requirements set out in the Market Abuse Regulation which, among other things, require important disclosures to investors.”