The embattled Co-operative Group is to delay the publication of annual results that are widely expected to reveal losses of £2 billion, it announced today.
Figures had been due to be published next Wednesday, on 26 March, but this has now been put back by three weeks to 17 April. It is likely to fuel speculation that the food-to-funerals group's balance sheet has been left in even worse shape than previously thought.
But a source blamed the delay on the recent turmoil over the departure of chief executive Euan Sutherland. Instead of an intense focus on the numbers in the run-up to the release "people's focus has been elsewhere". The results cover a 12-month period in which the Co-op has faced the worst crisis in its history, after a £1.5 billion hole was discovered in the finances of its banking arm, and the group lost overall control of the business as it was rescued by bondholders.
Mr Sutherland walked out last week as head of the "ungovernable" group as knives were drawn in the boardroom over the reforms he insisted were essential to bring it back to shape. He had only been at the helm since May. He claimed his attempts to drive through reform had been deliberately undermined by colleagues at the top of the group leaking details of his £3.66 million pay deal to a Sunday newspaper.
It prompted an extraordinary Facebook rant in which Mr Sutherland lashed out at "disaffected people who are determined to make life difficult and embarrassing for the Co-operative".
Announcing the results delay, the group said its annual meeting would still be held, as planned, on May 17, when members will hear details of its strategy review. A special general meeting, at a later date, will put detailed reforms for the way the group is governed to a membership vote. It comes after the Co-op's 21-member board voted to abolish itself and be replaced by a slimmed-down "plc" style board responsible for making commercial decisions.
Meanwhile, the group today also unveiled a series of changes to its executive management team. Finance director Richard Pennycook, who is currently standing in as chief executive, will once a permanent new boss is found move into an expanded role as chief operating officer. The role will oversee finance and procurement as well as IT, risk and "transformation delivery" as the group seeks to re-shape itself.
Other changes include a shake-up in the management of its various divisions. They include former Co-op bank deputy chief executive Rod Bulmer becoming chief executive of consumer services, with responsibility for general insurance, funerals and legal services.
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