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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Promoter of European football clubs in China halts shares amid 'serious allegations'

Chief financial officer resigns after making claims against chief executive and chief operating officer

Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium. A firm that promotes European clubs in China, apparently including the Spanish outfit says it is investigating serious allegations against two of its executives. Lluis Gene / AFP
Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium. A firm that promotes European clubs in China, apparently including the Spanish outfit says it is investigating serious allegations against two of its executives. Lluis Gene / AFP

A company which helps European football clubs promote themselves in China on mobile phones has asked for trading in its shares on London's Alternative Investment Market to be suspended while it investigates "serious allegations" against two top executives.

BNN Technology, which says it has partnerships with a number of football clubs, including Barcelona and Arsenal, said on Monday its chief financial officer, Scott Kennedy, had resigned, making a number of allegations against the chief executive Darren Mercer and the chief operating officer Wei Qi.

The company said a committee of board members has suspended Mr Mercer and Mr Qi while it investigates the allegations. Mr Mercer and Mr QI could not immediately be reached for comment.

"The decision to suspend two of our senior team was not taken lightly and should not be taken as an assessment of the validity, or otherwise, of these allegations," said the chairman Harry Keiley.

"However, given the serious nature of these allegations and the source from which they have come, the independent committee feels it has no choice but to suspend the relevant individuals at this time."

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BNN Technology declined to comment further on the nature of the allegations and said trading in the shares would remain suspended, "pending the appointment of suitable executive management to oversee the company's operations, particularly those in China, whether interim or permanent".

The suspension comes amid increased scrutiny of companies who are listed on AIM which have Chinese operations.

The company originally listed on AIM as a gambling business in 2014, changing to become a provider of technology for online and mobile phone transactions after China banned the online sale of lottery products in March 2015, according to its website.

It also now helps to distribute news and runs competitions for fans of its client soccer clubs through a partnership with China's Xinhua News.

Shares in the firm last traded at 42p on Friday, down nearly 70 per cent this year and valuing the company at just over £100 million (Dh475.7m).

BNN raised £25m from investors in May, and reported a loss of £15.5m for the six months ending June 30 in its latest set of results.

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