Nortel: We Can Hit a Deadline!
Don't hold your breath, but Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) might be about to meet one of its self-imposed deadlines and start bringing its accounting nightmare to a close.
On November 11, Nortel said it would file its full audited financials for 2003 "within 30 to 60 days," and, following an announcement late Monday, a Nortel spokeswoman says the vendor is on course to hit that timeline.
Given the company's habit of missing its own accounting deadlines this year, that would be something of an achievement (see Nortel: Financial Stuff Really Complex, Nortel Misses Halloween Target, and Nortel Restates Delay of Restatement ).
The indication that the annual report, or 10-K, for 2003 might be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by early January came as the vendor announced it was seeking legal clearance to hold its 2004 annual shareholders' meeting in 2005 (see Nortel Asks to Postpone AGM).
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice had previously given Nortel until December 31, 2004, to hold the meeting, where the 2003 financials will be discussed. Now Nortel wants the court to grant it an extension until March 31 to give it time to prepare, print, and post the 2003 financials to its 1.7 million shareholders. [Ed. note: Haven't these people heard of digital documents?]
Nortel says it needs between 85 and 100 days to do all printing, licking, and sticking for the 2003 reports. With that timeframe in mind, the date of the 2004 annual meeting (if they can still call it that in 2005) should be announced around the holiday time.
This, at least, signifies a greater degree of confidence within the vendor. Nortel had stated previously that it might need to seek an extension until May 31, 2005, for the meeting.
This latest announcement makes March 31 the most significant date in Nortel's calendar, as it also faces delisting from the New York Stock Exchange if the 2003 annual report isn't filed by then (see Nortel: No Delisting Actions Yet).
Nortel and its investors will be praying that this is the beginning of the end, and that there'll be no more hiccups. The whole saga has dragged on far longer than anyone initially predicted, and Nortel CEO Bill Owens admitted yesterday at Scotia Capital's Institutional Lunch that missing the self-imposed reporting deadlines has been embarrassing. He added, though, that "it's far more important to me that we do these things right than it is that I meet a deadline."
Nortel's share price is trading up 3 cents, nearly 1 percent, at $3.45 today.
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading