British Gas rapped over its accounts

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The Independent Online
BRITISH GAS has been criticised by the Financial Reporting Review Panel, the accounting watchdog, over the presentation of its accounts, writes Heather Connon.

Last year the group changed its year-end from March to December. But its accounts for 1991 reported a profit and loss account for the whole year, rather than the nine months from March as is required by the Companies Act 1985. While the nine-month figures were included as a note to the accounts, their location and content did not comply with the Act and no earnings-per-share figure was disclosed.

Nick St John, group chief financial accountant with British Gas, said the group had 'given a lot of thought' to the presentation and was anxious not to confuse its 2.1 million shareholders, many of whom bought shares through privatisation. It makes most of its profit in the first quarter, so presenting figures for the nine months to December does 'not reflect the performance of the company'.

The group has agreed to ensure that the comparative figures shown in the 1992 accounts comply with the Act.

The panel also forced SEP Industrial Holdings to change its policy on depreciation. In future, the group will depreciate freehold property.