As businesses go in this part of the world, Scarlets Regional Limited is quite a big one, and so the very late publication of its results for the year to 30 June 2012 is striking. The report should have been published by the end of March 2013 at the latest, but the auditors and the board did not finally sign off until 13 April, and the results were not submitted to Companies House until last week.
Delays like this are normally an indication that all is not well, and that a lot of arm twisting and convincing needed to take place before people were prepared to put pen to paper.
The first thing to emerge from the report is that the company is insolvent, with liabilities exceeding assets by £3.24 million. That would be bad enough, but the auditors remind us that a very large question mark hangs over the valuation of the company's assets, of which by far the largest is the stadium itself. The value put on the stadium at the year end was £10.3 million.
Bearing in mind that the company does not actually own the stadium, that figure represents the hypothetical value of the lease, a sum which the directors would like the world to believe is the sort of money which could be raised if the club ever decided (or was forced) to sell the lease to someone else. The problem with that is that it is hard to think of anyone who might want to buy it.
As an old boss of Cneifiwr's used to remark, the value of something you cannot sell is nothing.
Nevertheless the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council told listeners to his recent radio broadcast that the council's investment in the venture was "very safe".
For the third year running, the auditors say that the losses and the excess of liabilities over assets "indicate material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern", as well as "significant doubt about the carrying value of the stadium".
The directors see things rather differently, and the report contains a lot of what can only be called spin. One of the few positives highlighted in the report was a reference to a very spurious consultants report commissioned by the club and Carmarthenshire County Council claiming that the Scarlets contribute £16 million to the local economy.
Match day attendance reached the third highest in the league, they point out. The turnover figures showed an increase of 5%, and by no means all of that can be attributed to higher ticket sales. In the absence of any figures, the truth is that ticket sales were probably flat, and that the match attendance figures were purely relative, and it would seem that season ticket holders are counted as attending regardless of whether they actually turn up.
"Administrative expenses" on the other hand rose by 11% to £3.82 million, and the bottom line was helped out by an unexplained entry for £175,000 in "other operating income" (previous year £nil). The notes unhelpfully explain that this was "sundry" income, and we have no way of knowing whether it will reappear next year.
What helped reduce overall operating losses was the unexplained "sundry items" and a reduction of roughly £360,000 in costs of sale, also unexplained.
A rather bleaker picture is presented by the balance sheet, where current liabilities (debts payable within one year) have risen sharply from £3.38 million to £4.6 million. Cash at hand shrank from £268,000 to £164,000.
In short, the club's indebtedness is rising rapidly, and any improvement in the performance of the underlying business has been slight. Meanwhile, despite the dire state of the club's finances, the directors
paid themselves emoluments totalling £125,000 (up from £113,000).
Two things will come to the club's rescue in the current year. First, the report mentions (for the third year running) an anticipated sale of an asset. No information is provided as to what this might be, but the likelihood is that this is the sale of part of an area designated as a car park to Marston's, the pub group.
Like the rest of the site, this was leased to the club by the County Council. When the idea of flogging off the lease to Marston's leaked out, the council responded by saying that "there would normally be a division of any uplift from the sale".
It now seems that at some point in the last six months the freehold was actually sold to the club. What the sale price was is a very interesting question, and council taxpayers have a legitimate interest in knowing what profit the club has made from this transaction.
The other factor which will have helped the club was the loss of George North to Northampton. The storyline has enough skulduggery, crocodile tears and bluffs to fill the pages of a trashy airport novel. The WRU accused the Scarlets of touting the player for sale without his knowledge, while Scarlets claimed that they did everything to try to keep him before "reluctantly" allowing him to go a year before his contract ended.
Perhaps this will appear as a sundry item in next year's report, but the loss of George North is a serious loss to Welsh rugby, and the way in which the deal was handled further exacerbated the already strained relationship between the WRU and the regions at a time when both sides were trying to set aside their differences and work together more closely for the good of the game.
These rare rays of sunshine are balanced by more looming dark clouds. A debt of £2.5 million is owed to Carmarthenshire County Council, and payments of interest on the loan are due to resume this year.
The generosity of the club's other wealthy backers dropped sharply in 2011-12, with only two of the directors pumping in loans of £100,000 each.
On top of all that, the club needs to renegotiate its banking facilities by the end of May 2013. The bankers will hardly be jumping for joy at the prospect.
The likelihood is that Scarlets Regional Limited will limp on for another year or two. Unless there is a sudden and unexpected improvement in the company's fortunes, the county's taxpayers should brace themselves for more demands for help, including another moratorium on debt and interest payments.
The warning signs were always there, and the council, under the guidance of its chief executive, chose to ignore the advice they had commissioned which pointed out the high risks involved in the venture.
You would think that lessons would have been learned from this, but as austerity bites and more cuts are made to council jobs and services, the visionaries in County Hall are pressing on with their latest scheme in the shape of the Towy Community Church bowling alley (over £1.4 million in council funds committed so far).
That is loose change in comparison to the Scarlets venture, perhaps, but loose change we no longer have.