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Eddie Stobart crisis deals fresh blow to Woodford

Eddie Stobart, the logistics group known for its distinctively coloured lorries‎, will deliver a fresh blow to the embattled fund manager Neil Woodford on Friday when its chief executive quits in the wake of a multimillion pound accounting error.

Sky News has learnt that Eddie Stobart, which is listed on London’s junior AIM stock market, will announce that Alex Laffey is stepping down just two years after its flotation.

Sources said the company’s shares were likely to be suspended on Friday because it would be unable to meet a statutory‎ deadline for publishing its half-year results, which had been scheduled for the latter part of next week.

The developments will come six weeks after Eddie Stobart, which specialises in supply chain, transport and logistics, told the City that a review of prior year financial statements meant that profits for last year were £2m lower than announced.

The news will come as a further blow to Woodford Investment Management, which is itself in turmoil following its decision three months ago to block investors in its flagship fund from withdrawing their money.

Mr Woodford has already seen his holdings in a number of listed companies being hurt by concerns about their finances, including, most recently, the litigation funder Burford Capital.

According to the most recently published filings, Mr Woodford’s firm holds just under 23% of Eddie Stobart.

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It was unclear on Thursday night whether the logistics group would have to further adjust any of its previous financial statements.

An insider ‎described the share suspension as “a technicality” and insisted that the delayed half-year results would be published very shortly.

Mr Laffey’s departure will leave Eddie Stobart hunting a new boss soon after it appointed Anoop Kang, an experienced finance executive from the construction and healthcare sectors, as its chief financial officer.

A former Tesco executive, Mr Laffey joined the company in 2015.

One source said that Mr Kang’s appointment had led to greater rigour being applied to the company’s books.

Eddie Stobart is audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which recently replaced KPMG.

The company’s shares have performed dismally since its return to the stock market, slumping by 47% in the last year alone.

They listed at 160p, valuing the company at more than £570m, but are now worth just 71p.

Eddie Stobart is not directly connected to Stobart Group, the listed mini-conglomerate that owns Southend Airport, although the latter does hold an economic interest in the former.

The two‎ companies were previously part of the same ownership structure.

Mr Woodford’s firm is also a major shareholder in Stobart Group.

An Eddie Stobart spokesman declined to comment, while Woodford could not be reached for comment.

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