PNC Telecom to call in administrators

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The Independent Online

PNC Telecom, the former mobile phone retailer that sold all its assets two months ago, will this morning call in the administrators, saying it is still liable for onerous rent payments on several of the high street sites shareholders thought it had sold in April.

The move was attacked last night by the company's founder, Geremy Thomas, who returned as deputy chairman last year in a boardroom coup. Last December, Mr Thomas instigated the ousting of Lord Stevens of Ludgate as chairman.

Mr Thomas said he had contacted the City of London police asking them to investigate whether there had been fraud at the company. Mr Thomas's concerns centre on the £2m sale of PNC's KJC Mobile Phone chain of shops and its fixed-line telephony business to Vanguard, a private company based in North Wales. Under the deal, Vanguard agreed to assume certain liabilities from the PNC holding company as well as buying the operating businesses. However, the PNC board has been told these rental liabilities currently rest with PNC.

A report presented to PNC's board at an emergency meeting on Friday by Numerica, an accountancy firm, warned that the company's liabilities, including rent on former retail premises, exceeded its assets. The report concluded that an insolvency process was almost inevitable. Ian Gray, PNC's chief executive, said: "I will apply to get administrators appointed as a protective measure to protect the company's cash to ensure shareholders get a good chunk of the money." He denied there was any suggestion of fraud.

Mr Thomas is likely to contest any decision regarding PNC's future reached at Friday's board meeting, which he slammed as an invalid "unofficial sub-meeting". He says he was excluded from the meeting. Mr Thomas, who says he is acting on behalf of a number of disgruntled shareholders, yesterday asked PNC's broker, Seymour Pierce, to suspend trading in the AIM-listed shares and to coordinate an independent investigation into April's sale, which he voted against. "The shareholders are compiling a report on this matter and will be submitting it to the Serious Fraud Office."

PNC, a one-time star, has witnessed its shares sink from a peak of 405p, valuing the company at £130m, to 2.75p on Friday.