Gloria Jean’s and Donut King owner Retail Food Group has been queried by the share market operator and faces a potential class action over the timing of its recent profit warning.
The ASX has asked RFG when it first became aware of the information that led to its December 19 forecast of a fall in half-year profit.
At the same time, law firm Bannister Law says it is investigating whether RFG shareholders have grounds to launch a class action over the timing of the forecast..
RFG’s shares dived 25 per cent on Tuesday after it said it expects to make a net profit of $22 million in the six months to December, down 34 per cent on the same period a year earlier.
In its written query to RFG, ASX noted that the company had reaffirmed its forecast of growth in annual underlying profit of about six per cent on December 7.
“When did RFG first become aware of the revised half-year guidance?,” the ASX asked.
In its written response, RFG said its guidance was not “revised” because it had never provided a half-year profit forecast, only a full-year forecast.
It said the company’s executives received November accounts on December 16 and worked to the early hours of December 19 before issuing the warning just before the share market opened.
“RFG has acted promptly and without delay in this matter,” the company said in its reply to the ASX.
RFG has partly blamed a decline in sales on media reports, which were first published by Fairfax Media on December 9, accusing the company of charging franchisees exorbitant fees that were driving them to the wall.
RFG also blamed a tough retail environment, particularly for its franchisees in shopping centres, and costs linked to its business-wide review for the downgrade.
Bannister Law, which is involved in a class action against Volkswagen, said it is investigating RFG’s recent public statements to see if there are grounds to launch a class action on behalf of shareholders hit by the plunging value of their investments.
The firm said it will investigate whether RFG had reasonable grounds to issue forecasts of underlying annual profit growth between August 29 and December 7, and whether it should have corrected its guidance earlier than December 19.
“If those investigations show that RFG contravened provisions of the Corporations Act, Bannister Law may launch a class action on behalf of shareholders of RFG,” the law firm said.
RFG shares gained 52.5 cents, or 32.3 per cent, to $2.15 on Thursday, however the stock remains 51 per cent down on its level before the December 9 media reports.