Scottish chips go down badly with Apple

It's a cliche but nonetheless true that many Scotsmen are fonder of chips than apples.Which doesn't explain much about Wolfson Microelectronics plc, which has been caught breaking company rules by the Financial Services Authority and fined £140k for its mischief.

It's a cliche but nonetheless true that many Scotsmen are fonder of chips than apples.

Which doesn't explain much about Wolfson Microelectronics plc, which has been caught breaking company rules by the Financial Services Authority and fined £140k for its mischief.

You may not know about Wolfson, one of the UK's rare success stories in consumer electronics. A spin-off from Edinburgh University, Wolfson is best known for making the digital-to-analogue converters in a large number of iPods. As well as those, it makes a wide variety of mixed-signal devices that handle all sorts of conversion duties: it's one of the areas of silicon design where there's still room for good old fashioned analogue cleverness, and they breed 'em clever in Auld Reekie.

Unsurprisingly, Apple became one of Wolfson's biggest customers – if you're making stuff for iPods, you've going to be making a lot of stuff for iPods. So when Apple told Wolfson on the 10th March 2008 that it wasn't going to be retaining its services for the forthcoming iPod Nano or iPod Touch, it most definitely counted as bad news.

Now, if you're a public company you have to tell the world bad news as soon as possible, otherwise it sits there as inside information generating a false market in your shares. (See also: the entire blooming financial sector of the entire blooming world)

Wolfson didn't get around to telling the world until the 26th, 16 days later – at which point, the share price bellyflopped by around a fifth. There were mitigating circumstances, which the FT mentions in its coverage of the story, but as it concludes this is scant comfort to anyone who bought shares during that period.

So Wolfson gets a slap on the wrists - £140k will probably mean a project or two gets underfunded, but with $13m profit on $231m revenue in 2007 (2008's figures are due in a couple of weeks) it's hardly economy imperilling stuff. But then again, it's not as if there's anything else going on for the FSA to worry about...

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