Britain eases financial reporting rules during epidemic


LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s financial regulators announced a welter of measures on Thursday to give companies more time to publish their results and more leeway to banks over how they deal with troubled loans.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past the Bank of England in the financial district in London, Britain February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Britain’s economy has gone into lockdown and a recession is predicted by economists, making it difficult for companies to assess earnings.

“These measures are aimed at ensuring that banks are able to continue to lend to households and businesses, support the real economy, and provide robust and consistent market disclosures,” Bank of England Deputy Governor Sam Woods said.

Under a global accounting rule, banks are required to provision for losses on loans to businesses as soon as credit risks increase, raising fears that provisioning will balloon given that large parts of the economy have gone into lockdown

Woods said it was critical that banks take “well-balanced” decisions that also take into account actions that have already been taken by government to help borrowers.

The Financial Reporting Council and the Financial Conduct Authority also unveiled measures to help companies and their auditors.

“It addresses the difficulties companies currently face in making forward-looking judgments in their financial statements: for example, in strategic reports and viability statements, with a focus on appropriate disclosure of material uncertainties and going concern issues,” the FRC said.

The FCA said it will allow listed companies which need extra time to complete their audited financial statements an extra two months to publish them.

The regulator said it would not suspend a company’s listing if it published financial statements within six months of their year-end, it added.

“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 FCA said.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Rachel Armstrong

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