Michael Dunn* introduces Company Alert and OfferList, ASIC’s new free Internet services, and highlights some other new features of ASIC’s revamped website.
ASIC's website (www.asic.gov.au) was recently named one of the top 10 Australian business and finance sites used by Australians. We have recently upgraded it, offering more services and faster access to help companies and business, as well as consumers.
Company Alert Company Alert is Australia's first free company alert service through the Internet. It e-mails overnight details of any changes that Australia's 1.1 million companies make to information on our national companies database. That includes information listed companies disclose to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). You register for the service by putting in your e-mail address and setting up a profile of the companies you are interested in. You will need the Australian Company Numbers or Australian Registered Body Numbers of each company, but you can find these on our site. Company Alert can help you invest or manage credit risks through overnight e-mail of changes to:
• company directors
• deeds of company arrangement
• applications for winding up a company and external administration
• company financial statements (where lodged) or
• company takeovers.
The e-mail you receive will describe what document has changed, and you then decide if you want to buy a copy of the document or company extract. Listed companies announcements are posted on the ASX website.
You can tailor the information you receive. If you register for information about proprietary companies or non-listed companies who usually lodge fewer documents with ASIC, you may be happy to receive notification of all changes. However, for large listed companies, such as banks, who lodge numerous disclosure documents with ASIC, you may prefer to specify the type of information you want to receive. In the case of share buy-backs, for example, companies must lodge the number of shares bought each day, so if you requested all information for such a company, you could receive a daily e-mail. For the estimated 5.7 million Australians who own shares directly, Company Alert can help them make better investment decisions by giving them more information faster about companies they hold shares in. The service will be of special value to shareholders in smaller companies, whose affairs are covered in less depth by the media. Before Company Alert, accounting professionals, credit providers and mercantile agents could receive notification of changes to a company by fax for a fee.
OfferList and new laws about fundraising Our other new Internet service, OfferList, supports new laws that replaced the old prospectus registration process on 13 March. Fundraising offer documents are now lodged for public comment before companies may start processing acceptances. This gives investors, analysts and the media the chance to review the offer. The exposure period is ordinarily seven days, but we may extend it up to 14 days. OfferList gives details of all offer documents that have been lodged with us since 13 March 2000, including documents at the public exposure stage as well as all offers that are currently on the market. You can search for documents by company name or type of offer. OfferList will show you how to obtain a copy of a document but will not give you the document itself. Companies and directors remain legally responsible for what offer documents contain. During the exposure period or afterwards, people can come to us if they believe an offer contravenes the law. We may issue stop orders or take other action against misleading or deceptive documents. We expect to use these powers more frequently, because the abolition of prospectus registration could mean that more defective offer documents reach the market.
To reduce this possibility, our policy statements (PS 151 to PS 158) outline disclosure details issuers should address to meet the new requirements. We have also highlighted past areas of concern that caused us to refuse to register prospectuses or to take enforcement action. For example, in 1999, we refused to register 93 prospectuses that presented problems in:
• benchmarking returns
• quoting rates of return
• experts' reports
• projected returns and
More details are in our media release (MR 00/085) on our website. You can also get copies of the policy statements through the Policy & Practitioners section of the site.
Faster access to our new website Company Alert and OfferList form part of our renovated website. Users will find the site loads faster, responds more quickly and lets you find information more easily. Further improvements to the search engine are expected, so that you can locate information in PDF files. We have also spun off a new consumer-focused mini-site called "Watchdog" (www.watchdog.asic.gov.au). This new site offers extra help to consumers who want to search the company database or who are interested in financial products and services. Depending on how people respond, we may also consider spinning off other sites, possibly for small business.
* Dr Michael Dunn is communication director, Australian Securities and Investments Commission
The purpose of this database is to provide a full-text record of all articles that have appeared in the CDJ since February 1997. It is aimed to assist in the research and reference process. The database has a full-text index and will enable articles to be easily retrieved.It should be noted that information contained in this database is in pre-publication format only - IT IS NOT THE FINAL PRINTED VERSION OF THE CDJ - therefore there might be slight discrepancies between the contents of this database and the printed CDJ.
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