Tiscali auditors refuse to sign off broadband provider's accounts

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The Independent Online

Tiscali, the Italian broadband group that last month failed to sell its UK business to BSkyB, has suffered another setback after its auditors refused to sign off the company's accounts over fears it could collapse.

The group, with 1.8 million UK broadband customers, said that Ernst & Young could not give an opinion on its financial statement for 2008 "because of the fundamental uncertainties on the business continuity".

This will spark further speculation that BSkyB could reignite its interest in the UK arm, after the deal collapsed in March over price. Carphone Warehouse's broadband business, TalkTalk, has also been mooted as a suitor.

The company's ability to continue as a going concern focuses on whether it can renegotiate its debts with the main lending banks. Tiscali believes a resolution will be reached. E&Y did not comment beyond the comments reported in Tiscali's statement.

Tiscali said yesterday it was "in disagreement" with its auditor's conclusion. The broadband group said it had co-operated and had provided the necessary information to enable E&Y to issue an audit opinion on its full-year results for 2008.

It moved to allay fears over its debt renegotiation. Tiscali said it "underlines that it has already obtained a period of standstill from the lending banks until June 2009".

These banks have also formally declared they would be willing to extend the standstill period until the end of the year. Tiscali said they had declared this intention in a letter copied to E&Y. Tiscali said yesterday it believes it will renegotiate the debt by the end of the standstill agreement.