'Irregularities' force Podia shares suspension

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The Independent Online

Podia, the marketing and promotions group for Formula One teams that organises motor racing's lavish Monte Carlo and Silverstone balls, yesterday asked for trading in its shares to be suspended on the Alternative Investment Market while it investigates an irregularity in one of its businesses.

Podia, the marketing and promotions group for Formula One teams that organises motor racing's lavish Monte Carlo and Silverstone balls, yesterday asked for trading in its shares to be suspended on the Alternative Investment Market while it investigates an irregularity in one of its businesses.

It is understood the irregularities were unearthed in the group's TMG division, the licensing and merchandising business that has distribution deals with the F1 teams BMW Williams, Jaguar, Jordan and Honda. TMG generated turnover of £5.7m for the group in the six months to 30 June. The problems are thought to be the result of an error and relate to only a small sum, rather than any concern that criminal activities may have taken place.

Shares in Podia were halted at 19p, valuing the company at £12m. As well as TMG, Podia's businesses include Jardine Communications, the specialist sports public relations company fronted by the Formula One commentator Tony Jardine, which it bought for £1.5m earlier this year. It also owns Event Vision, the hospitality and event management business behind the trackside hospitality of the worldwide Grand Prix tour, which it bought last year for £13.5m.

Scott Poulter, Podia's chief executive and 18 per cent shareholder, was not available for comment yesterday. The group will make a further announcement once the outcome of the investigation is known.

Podia was formed out of a reverse takeover of e-comsport, an online sports company chaired by the former Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Richard Greenbury, in 2001 led by Mr Poulter, then chief of TMG.

E-comsport was a victim of the dot.com crash and survived only six months after listing.

Podia posted first-half pre-tax profits of £707,000 on a turnover of £11m, following a loss of £1.2m in the same period last year. At the time of the half-year results, it said it was positioned for strong growth throughout the second half of the year.

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