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New CFO joins Helphire as it leaves financial A&E

STEPHEN OAKLEY has been named as the new chief financial officer of Helphire at a time when the accident management specialist is emerging from its own financial car crash.

Oakley takes over from Simon Poulton who has held the position of CFO on an interim basis since 27 June 2011 following the departure of previous CFO Ian Wardle who left the company in July after an independent review revealed the company had misled investors about its financial position.
On 6 May, Helphire announced the discovery of a potential “material discrepancy” in the carrying amount of its receivables. KPMG was appointed to discover the cause of the issue and quantify the precise value of the discrepancy.

The accounting blunder resulted in a £27m shortfall on the company’s balance sheet – more than 15% of Helphire’s receivables – as it made write downs of £25.7m for the year to the end of June.

The main cause of the over-valuation came from an “erroneous calculation” made at 31 December 2008. The error was held only within the company’s reporting systems – a new data warehouse revealed the problem.

Shares in Helphire have plummeted by more than 91% over the last year and when the company reported £34.1 pre-tax loss in the year to June it was the final straw for the company’s beleaguered shareholders.

The Telegraph reported that Neil Woodford, the star fund manager at Invesco Perpetual, which controls 29.81% of Helphire’s shares, led a boardroom overhaul at the Bath-based company which resulted in the resignations of Richard Rose as chairman as well as two non-executive directors – including former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard.

Oakley joins Helphire after what Martin Ward, group managing director, admitted it had been a “challenging year” for the group. However, with the accounting problems out in the open and the completion of the group’s business recovery plan, which reduced total debt from £348m in early 2009 to £134m at 30 June 2011 and slashed overheads by more than £61m per annum., he will be hoping that the company has emerged from intensive care.

In the past Oakley has been group finance director The Hartstone
Group, Macarthy and was previously chief executive of AIM-listed Loftus Road and interim CFO of Sira Business Services.

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