LONDON (Reuters) - Regulators should give listed companies an extra two months to publish their annual financial statements given the difficulty of completing audits on time due to the coronavirus epidemic, the European Union's markets watchdog said on Friday.
The European Securities and Markets Authority said national regulators should "apply forbearance powers towards issuers who need to delay publication of financial reports beyond the statutory deadline".
Listed companies must publish an annual financial report within four months from the end of their financial year. For those whose year ended on Dec.31, this would mean a deadline of April 30. ESMA said companies should be given an extra two months.
Issuers of shares or bonds must also make half-yearly financial reports within three months, or the end of March for some companies. ESMA said companies should have an extra month to comply.
"This is in the interest of investor protection and contributes to the integrity of financial markets in the Union," ESMA said in statement.
The EU watchdog said that if necessary it will re-assess any potetial need to amend the forebearance period.
Some EU states have already extended publication deadlines.
"Therefore, this public statement will be of relevance to those jurisdictions where such legislative changes have not taken place or are not going to take place," ESMA said.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Catherine Evans and Angus MacSwan)