Listing Rule 9.8.6 requires listed companies incorporated in the UK to provide in their annual report "a statement made by the directors that the business is a going concern, together with supporting assumptions or qualifications as necessary, that has been prepared in accordance with Going Concern and Financial Reporting: Guidance for Directors of listed companies registered in the United Kingdom, published in November 1994".
The 1994 Guidance is now the subject of review: the Financial Reporting Council has published a consultation paper in which it states:
The Guidance for Directors was written by a Working Group formed under the auspices of the Cadbury Committee that reported on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance. The formation of the Working Group arose out of concerns that there had been several high‐profile company failures where there had been no apparent indication of the imminent problems in the previous year’s report and accounts.
The objective of the Guidance for Directors is to support good corporate reporting and, in particular, the requirements of the Listing Rules and Accounting Standards. When a company is not a going concern this does not necessarily mean that it is, or is likely to become, insolvent. The Guidance for Directors is not intended to address aspects of insolvency and, in particular, is not intended to support the requirements of the Insolvency Act 1986.
In the period since 1994 there have been substantial changes to the accounting standards applied by directors of listed companies. This is particularly the case for directors preparing consolidated accounts required to comply with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) as adopted by the EU.
The FRC observes that current economic conditions are creating particular challenges for companies. Recent developments in global debt markets have led banks to be cautious of lending to one another (the so‐called “credit crunch”). This has severely restricted liquidity which has created unexpected financial difficulties for banks and entities that depend on the availability of loans as a key source of capital. Many market commentators are now forecasting a period of reduced growth and in some cases recession, with the result that going concern questions are likely to need to be considered in more detail by Boards of Directors.
In view of these deteriorating economic conditions the FRC has concluded that this is an appropriate time to consider whether the existing Guidance for Directors is necessary and remains appropriate, or whether it can be improved.
Note: The UK's Combined Code on Corporate Governance (June 2008) provides in Section C ("Accountability and Audit") the following provision (C.1.2): "The directors should report that the business is a going concern, with supporting assumptions or qualifications as necessary".
Postscript (2 Sep 2008): For further comment see this short article in the Financial Times newspaper.