Podia suspends finance director

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Podia, the marketing and promotions group specialising in Formula One motor racing, yesterday suspended its finance director as part of an investigation into "irregularities" in one of its business divisions.

Podia, the marketing and promotions group specialising in Formula One motor racing, yesterday suspended its finance director as part of an investigation into "irregularities" in one of its business divisions.

Hatim Dungarwalla, the finance director of the group since April last year, has been suspended until further notice pending the outcome of the group's investigation.

On Tuesday Podia asked for trading in its shares to be halted after it said it was holding an inquiry into its finances.

A statement issued yesterday by the company said: "Further to announcements made by the company over the last two days and the ongoing investigation referred to previously, the board of Podia has resolved to suspend Hatim Dungarwalla."

It is understood the irregularities have occurred in the group's TMG division, the licensing and merchandising business that has distribution deals with the F1 racing teams BMW Williams, Jaguar, Jordan and Honda. The problems are thought to be the result of an error and relate to only a small sum.

Podia also owns Jardine Communications, the specialist sports public relations company, 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 Grand Prix tour.

The company's chief executive and 18 per cent shareholder, Scott Poulter, has not been available for comment since the troubles at Podia were revealed. Shares in Podia were trading at a high of 39p earlier this year but were suspended at 19p, valuing the group at £12m.

Mr Dungarwalla joined shortly after Podia was formed in 2001 from a reverse takeover of e-comsport, an online sports company chaired by the former Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Richard Greenbury.

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. The board issued an upbeat statement in its half-year results that the group was trading in line with expectations.

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