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Finance director steps down at Worthington Nicholls

Tim Hunt has stepped down as finance director for Worthington Nicholls, after its share price plummeted last month.
Worthington Nicholls has appointed Chris Neilson as interim finance director with immediate effect.

Tim Hunt, joined the firm only in January of this year.

The board said 'Tim has focused his attentions on dealing with the city, reviewing internal systems and procedures and dealing with acquisitions.

'As a result of the significant amount of work involved in these areas particularly for a newly floated company with a highly acquisitive strategy, Tim and the board have decided that, in the best interests of the group, his focus should be on the financial operational aspects of the business. 'Tim will remain with the group going forward in a senior role as head of Finance'.

Chris Neilson has worked for Inter Link Foods as finance director and business development director. During his time at Interlink, its annual turnover rose from a break-even level of £5m to £98m with profits of £5.9m.

Worthington Nicholls said it is still seeking a permanent, full time finance director.

The firm also said 'As part of his new role as chairman, Alastair Stoddart has implemented two reviews aimed at assisting the group in identifying areas for improvement and to ensure the adoption across the group of best practices identified from within newly acquired companies'.

Worthington Nicholls is to conduct a review of the company's accounting policies.

On the subject of new acquisitions the group said 'Whilst cash balances were £12.5m as at September 17 2007, the board will not be considering making further acquisitions in the short term. This is to allow the directors the time to ensure the acquisitions made to date are sufficiently integrated into the group'.

EU legislation forcing thousands of building owners to replace ozone depletive gases in ac and ventilation systems with more eco-friendly ones meant business was booming for the firm. The deadline for owners of hotels, retail and office buildings to replace ac, heating, ventilation and chilled water systems using banned gases is the end of 2009.

The company's need for working capital to finance the expected leap in turnover this year and acquisitions led Worthington Nicholls to opt for raising money through an AIM listing.

Shares in the company fell in August amidst warnings that turnover and profit would be 'materially below market expectations' as a result of delayed hotel equipment contracts, floods and a fall in maintenance callouts as a result of poor summer weather.

After £15m was wiped of the value of the company, the group said it would 'strengthen the management of the business'. It said 'This includes the possibility of making appointments at the most senior levels.'

The group's current financial year ends on September 30. The board intends to issue a trading statement in the second half of October 2007 outlining the expected outturn for this financial year.
19 September 2007

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