Subscribe for 17¢ / day

HELENA (AP) — Touch America said Thursday it is being removed from the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board stock exchange, and expects to start trading Friday on so-called "Pink Sheets."

The company is being delisted after failing to meet deadlines for filing earnings reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Butte-based company has not filed an annual report for 2002, or an update for the first quarter of this year.

It will be the second exchange to delist Touch America. The New York Stock Exchange removed the stock in late March after shares of Touch America traded below a dollar share for an extended period of time.

The stock closed at about 20 cents a share Thursday on the OTC bulletin board.

Touch America said its filings are delayed because it is trying to determine the effect of a recent decision that it owes Qwest $60 million, and a separate move to strip $827 million from the value of its fiber-optic network.

Touch America did not meet Thursday's filing deadline, forcing the electronic bulletin board to delist the stock, said Linda McGillen, director of Touch America's investor relations.

"It is certain. They have no discretion," she said.

There are few minimum standards to be traded as a penny stock on the "Pink Sheets," and those firms are not required to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

McGillen said shareholders would still be able to trade the stock through their usual broker, although the symbol will change from TCAHE.OB to TCAHE.PK.

But there will be less trading information available on the stock, although investors will still be able to easily find the latest price and the number of shares traded on a daily basis, McGillen said.

She said the firm will likely appear on the Web site on this morning, a place where such stocks are tracked.

In the past couple of months, the former Montana Power Co. subsidiary has also warned that it may have to file for bankruptcy if it doesn't start making money or find a way to borrow money.

Touch America also has pared down operations and cut its work force in recent months, hoping to find much-needed cash.

Touch America investors have filed lawsuits over management of the company. One suit claims that company executives, including President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Gannon, failed in their fiduciary duty to protect employees' investments in the company retirement.

McGillen said the firm has actually benefited from trading as an over-the-counter stock.

She said a lot more shares are being traded now that the firm is no longer listed with the NYSE, a trend that won't be affected by a move to the "Pink Sheets."

"A lot of companies that trade over the counter prefer to stay there," McGillen said.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.