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By ESPN Staff

Rangers share trading suspended

Rangers have suffered another financial blow as trading on their shares has been suspended because of their failure to submit audited accounts.

Rangers published their annual financial figures on November 30 but they were not signed off by an independent auditor and the club subsequently failed to meet the six-month deadline from the end of their financial year.

Rangers chairman Craig Whyte quickly responded to the PLUS Stock Exchange's suspension by downplaying the merits of being listed on the market and revealed he was considering withdrawing from it after the first anniversary of his takeover in May.

The development is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the club's finances, although it could make it more difficult for shareholders to trade.

However, it is another blow to the club's financial reputation and puts more pressure on Whyte to provide some form of assurances to shareholders and fans.

Rangers explained their failure to meet their obligations was down to the ongoing dispute with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, which is due to come before a tax tribunal next week, although it could be March before a verdict is delivered.

The stock exchange acted after reporting a breach of the rule that requires issuers to publish annual audited accounts within a certain time frame.

Rangers responded with a statement, which read: "The delay has been caused as a result of finalising the audit, which the board believe will be complete on or around January 31, 2012.

"The delay in finalising the audit is principally related to the ongoing HMRC tax tribunal.

"The board of the Rangers Football Club plc is currently considering the merit of maintaining its listing on the PLUS market after May 6 2012, being the date 12 months following the acquisition of the 85.3% holding of the Company by The Rangers FC Group Limited.''

Whyte soon downplayed the merits of being listed on the market.

In a statement on the club's official website, he said: "Given the structure of the shareholding in the club, there is very little, if any, tangible benefit for the club to be a listed company.

"The fact that the club has a majority shareholder controlling more than 80% means there is very little trading in shares. In reality, a public listing means more bureaucracy.

"Rangers does not need to remain a listed company in order for people to buy and sell their individual shares and since becoming chairman I have always questioned what is really being achieved with a public listing. Whether or not we are a listed company, accounts will still be published and there will still be a shareholders' AGM.

"All shareholders would be able to hold the directors to account."

Shareholders have not been able to do that formally yet under Whyte as Rangers have not met their obligations to hold an AGM within six months of the end of their financial year.

Whyte claimed he was waiting for a more positive outlook before holding the meeting and Rangers have said that "last year's postponed AGM will be held as soon as possible after the accounts are finalised".

Whyte also faces further questions following the club's admission that he had been disqualified as a director, which came in a statement to the body on November 30, the same day as they released their annual figures.

James Goodwin, director of regulation at PLUS, said: "The PLUS Stock Exchange is also currently conducting an investigation into the circumstances under which Craig Whyte's seven-year disqualification from acting as a director in 2000 were not disclosed at the time of his appointment to the board of Rangers FC on 6 May 2011."

The Scottish Football Association also wrote to the club seeking clarification over the issue.

The annual financial figures in question showed the club's net debt was almost halved to £14 million but "net current liabilities" rose from about £21 million to £34.3 million.

Whyte has described the tax case, which could potentially cost the club up to £49 million, as a "dark cloud" and he has refused to rule out the possibility of administration if Rangers lose their dispute, which centres on payments made long before he bought out Sir David Murray.

Former Rangers striker Mark Hateley, who still works for the club, has urged supporters to show faith in Whyte.

"It's not been the easiest of takeovers because of all the ongoing debts and uncertainties of the debts," Hateley said. "You have to dig in there as a supporter and just try to see this storm out.

"It just seems to be one storm after the other at the moment but we have to believe in the chairman and the way he is taking the club and, at the end of that, that's where he will be judged.

"There have been a few eyebrows raised since he's been at the club with the way he's done things and the way he has upset a few people shall we say, but it's his club and it's his club to be run the way he wants it to be run."


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