Alpha Airports shares suspended

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The Independent Online

Shares in Alpha Airports were suspended yesterday after the company auditors suddenly withdrew their approval of the accounts.

PricewaterhouseCoopers had previously signed off the accounts for the year ended 31 January 2006, but changed its mind on Monday night, when it alerted Alpha to the news.

Alpha, which supplies food and retail services to 100 airlines and 70 airports, asked the London Stock Exchange to halt trading in the shares while it investigates. It said in a statement that PwC is concerned by "a series of transactions connected with a major contract awarded to the company". No further details were given.

Accountants said it is highly unusual for approval of a company's accounts to be withdrawn at such a late stage. The annual report has been cancelled and the annual meeting will be delayed because of the controversy.

PwC declined to comment, citing client confidentiality. The shares were suspended at 84.5p, at which level the company is worth £147m.

Alpha said it is "urgently seeking to clarify the position". PwC, the auditors since 1994, have not resigned.

When Alpha unveiled its preliminary full-year figures in March, Alpha said it had been defrauded by £2.5m. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service are investigating. PwC's concerns are not related to this case, it is understood.

Alpha made profit of £18.4m last year on sales of £550m.