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TweetDeck: Twitter's UK Firm Risks Closure

(c) Sky News 2013

One of Twitter's UK companies is at risk of being struck off over repeated failure to file accounts with the business regulator, Sky News can reveal.

The firm under scrutiny, TweetDeck Ltd, has been fined for a second time after missing deadlines in September and December last year.

A Companies House spokesperson told Sky News: "This is a non-compliance issue and a compulsory strike-off action has commenced.

"TweetDeck is still yet to file. That means they have 99 days to file up-to-date accounts or face being dissolved and struck-off the register."

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will also gain access to details of the filing failure.

Twitter, which now has 200 million monthly users worldwide, declined to comment when contacted by Sky News about the position of its UK business.

TweetDeck is used by Twitter "power users" and helps integrate the programme with Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) and other social media applications.

It was originally due to file annual business accounts no later than September 30 last year. However it failed to do so and incurred a nominal £375 penalty at that time.

But because it did not file accounts by the second cut-off of December 31 it has been hit with a second, automatic £375 penalty.

If the accounts are not filed shortly TweetDeck may be fined a total of £1,500, and be subject to debt recovery procedures and court action.

Details of the "proposal to strike off" were sent from the Cardiff-based business regulator to the London Gazette and are due to be published on Tuesday.

The London Gazette is the official Government journal of record and it allows the Tax Office, creditors or other interested parties to know of TweetDeck's position.

The Companies House annual returns are used by businesses as a basis for tax filings with HMRC, but there is no suggestion TweetDeck has avoided any tax liability.

TweetDeck was started by Sheffield-educated computer programmer Iain Dodsworth in 2008 and sold to Twitter Inc in May 2011 for an estimated £25m.

The San Francisco microblogging giant controls its UK operations through a Dublin-based parent firm, Twitter International Company.

Three American Twitter Inc executives are directors of Twitter UK Ltd - chief operating officer Ali Rowghani, chief executive Dick Costolo and general counsel Alex Macgillivray.

But only Mr Costolo and Mr Macgillivray are directors of TweetDeck. Mr Macgillivray is company secretary for both UK firms and head of corporate development at Twitter Inc.

TweetDeck's directors are now in the unenviable position of being part of the 0.9% of firms that fail to abide by regulations controlling UK businesses.

According to Companies House, more than 2.7 million firms are actively registered and 99.1% are up to date in their filings.

On December 10, Sky News revealed that both TweetDeck and Twitter UK had failed to file accounts by the pre-penalty due date of September 30.

Three days after the revelations Mr Rowghani signed annual abbreviated accounts for Twitter UK.

Those accounts were made public last week but only dealt with Twitter UK - not TweetDeck - between June 1 and December 31, 2011 and showed a profit of £16,500 on a total income of £484,723.

The filed documents showed Twitter UK accounts were audited by PwC and signed by a Dublin senior statutory auditor on December 17.

However no TweetDeck business accounts have been lodged with Companies House since Mr Dodsworth resigned in July, 2011.

Corporate solicitor Maung Aye, of Mackrell Turner Garrett , told Sky News: "It is particularly important for globally recognised companies to ensure that members of their group comply with any requisite filing deadlines set by the Companies Act 2006 and any other relevant legislation, to the extent it applies to them.

"What can be perceived by the directors as a relatively minor issue such as the late filing of a company's accounts, can potentially have very serious consequences including the directors of the offending company being prosecuted and ending up with a criminal record and the company being subject to a fine.

"Ultimately, the Registrar of Companies has the power to strike a company off the register if he believes it is no longer in business."

Companies House is also explicit in the duties expected of directors, whether they are Britons or foreigners.

"As an officer of your company, you are personally responsible for ensuring that you deliver your accounts and reports before the time allowed runs out," the business regulator explains on its website.

Twitter has recently prepared for an expansion of staff in its London and Dublin offices as it builds a multinational advertising sales team.

Plans include increasing revenue by "self-serve" credit card payments for advertisers, a system to root out spam adverts, and a programme to translate tweet feeds into more than 28 languages.

It is also creating a "media partnerships" team in Britain to cultivate wider use of Twitter by celebrities including "athletes, actors, comedians, musicians, etc".

Corporate insiders believe the speed of expansion of Twitter and a lack of communication between professional and legal advisers have played a part in its British business filing blunders.

Forbes magazine recently reported that Twitter is moving towards a public flotation in 2014 and could be worth more than $11bn (£6.8bn) to investors if it successfully monetises social media without disenfranchising users.

But it risks further harm if it fails to improve external perception of internal structures.

"This could mean a public relations disaster for the global brand with the adverse publicity it would inevitably receive," Mr Aye said.

"Shareholders and investors would certainly feel very uncomfortable by the thought that their company does not seem to be getting these basic requirements right."

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