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CONTINUING OBLIGATIONS Introduction?The obligations that a company must comply with once its shares are listed are known as 'continuing obligations'. The price of greater access to a market is the additional rules and regulations a listed company must adhere to. Ongoing compliance can lead to significant additional time and expense and scrutiny, and is an important consideration to consider when making a decision to list. The LPDT rules achieve the aims of continuing obligations by three methods:
1. Disclosure of information to the market and shareholders
2. Approval of key transactions by shareholders
3. Regulating information sent to shareholders
The sources of these continuing obligations are: a) LR 9 - continuing obligations b) DTR 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and DTR 6.1 - disclosure and control of inside information, periodical financial reporting and continuing obligations c) LR 10 - significant transactions involving listed companies d) LR 11 - transactions with related parties e) LR 13 - circulars to shareholders A. DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS?LR 9 requires a listed company to disclose to the public specific information relating to the company. A listed company must also observe the DTRs (DTR 1.1.1R and DTR 1A.1.1G). When complying with the LRs and DTRs, a listed co. must also ensure it abides by the Listing Principles set out at LR 7.2.1R. These LPs are designed to assist listed companies in identifying their obligations and responsibilities under both the LRs and DTRs (LR 7.1.3G). The most relevant LPs: o LP 2: A listed company must take reasonable steps to establish and maintain adequate procedures, systems and controls to enable it to comply with its obligations. o LP 4: A listed company must communicate information to holders and potential holders of its listed equity shares in such a way as to avoid the creation or continuance of a false market in such listed equity shares.
Inside information?DTR 2 requires listed companies to disclose inside information. Under DTR 2.2.1R, an issuer must notify a RIS asap of any inside information which directly concerns the issuer unless DTR 2.5.1R applies. Inside information is defined in s.118C FSMA: o Information of a precise nature; o Not generally available; o Relates directly/indirectly to the company; o If made public, would have a significant effect on the price of its qualifying investments. The 'reasonable investor' test in s.118C(6) is designed to determine whether inside information exists. Hence, the information is likely to be inside information if it would be likely to have a significant effect on price because it is information of a kind which
a reasonable investor would be likely to use as part of the basis of his investment decisions. o See DTR 2.2.5G for further guidance on the reasonable investor test Exceptions to the obligation to disclose inside information immediately: i. When there has been an unexpected and significant event (DTR 2.2.9(2)G) - a short delay may be acceptable, but a holding announcement should be made if there is a danger of inside information leaking before the facts and impact can be confirmed. ii. Where disclosure may prejudice the issuer's legitimate interests (DTR
2.5.1R) - this is provided that the conditions of DTR 2.5.1R are met (omission will not be likely to mislead the public, any person receiving the information owes the company a duty of confidentiality, and the company can ensure the confidentiality of the information). o DTR 2.5.3R: Legitimate interests may relate to negotiations in course where the outcome of the negotiations would be affected by public disclosure, or decisions taken which need approval of another body of the issuer to become effective. o DTR 2.5.4G(1): Delay in public disclosure is not permitted where the information relates to an issuer's financial difficulty or worsening financial condition. o DTR 2.5.7G: Selective disclosure of information is possible to persons owing the issuer a duty of confidentiality - but such disclosure must be made in the normal course of the exercise of employment, profession or duties.
Specific disclosure requirementsLR 9 and DTR 6 contain a number of rules requiring listed companies to make specific disclosures, some of which are considered here.
a) DTR 6.1.9R: Change in rights attaching to various classes of shares b) LR 9.6.11R: Certain board changes must be notified to a RIS as soon as possible and in any event by the end of the business day following the decision c) Disclosure of financial information - every listed company must produce financial results statements: o Annual report and accounts (LR 9.8, DTR 4.1, DTR 7.2) - to be published within four months of the end of the financial year o Halfyearly reports (DTR 4.2R) - to be published within two months of the end of each sixmonth period o Interim management statement which contains an explanation of material events and transactions that have taken place (DTR 4.3R) - to be published once in every sixmonth period, between ten weeks after the beginning and six weeks before the end of the sixmonth period. d) Dealings or holdings in company shares Insider lists - ensuring compliance with LP 2?
Listed companies must maintain insider lists of personnel who have access to the listed company's inside information (DTR 2.8.1R). DTR 2.8.7G: Staff working for an adviser to an issuer only need to be placed on the insider list if: o They are the principal contact of the issuer with the adviser; o They act on behalf of the issuer and are in direct contact with the issuer; and o They have access to inside information.
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