Phorm suspends its shares from trading amid funding scrabble

Behavioural ad-flinger once used by BT runs low on cash

Controversial web monitoring business Phorm has temporarily suspended trading in its shares after failing to secure funds.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange yesterday, it said it is in "advanced discussions" regarding alternative financing.

"There can be no guarantee that such discussions will result in any funds being raised. Pending conclusion of those discussions the Company has requested suspension of its shares from trading on AIM," it said.

Back in 2008 The Register revealed that BT had twice trialled Phorm's targeted advertising system on tens of thousands of its customers without their consent. Internet law experts, including the Foundation for Information Policy Research, argued the firms had acted unlawfully.

The European Commission began legal action against the UK government for allegedly failing to regulate Phorm and for lacking proper data protection laws.

In 2011 the Crown Prosecution Service decided it would "not be in the public interest" to prosecute Phorm.

Eventually the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Monetary Penalty Notices and Consents for Interceptions) Regulations 2011 were amended to make it clear that explicit consent is required from sender and recipient for the interception of communications to be lawful.

Phorm no longer operates in the UK, but has been making significant losses for some time.

In its interim results for the first six months of 2015/16, the company posted a loss of $16.3m (£11.7m), down from its loss of $22.8m ( for the same period in 2014/15. Loss for the full-year 2014 was $40.5m (£16.4m).

On 1 February 2016 the company entered into an unsecured short term loan agreement with Meditor European Master Fund Limited for $2.75m (£1.9m). As part of the agreement it was was required to secure further equity funding of at least $2.5m (£1.8m) by 24 February 2016.

"The Company today announces that it has been unable to secure the requisite equity funding by the Tranche 3 deadline and accordingly the ability to draw down under Tranche 3 has lapsed," it said in the London Stock Exchange filing.

According to its last financial report, the group’s technology is currently used with seven ISPs in Russia. It had also been trying to launch in China but had "encountered a number of operational challenges in this market."

Discussions with several US based ISPs to potentially deploy its technology are "ongoing", it said. "Although there can be no assurance at this stage that our technology will eventually be adopted." ®

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