PASSPORT and banknote firm De La Rue has seen more than a fifth wiped off its stock market value after the firm warned there was a risk it could collapse if recovery efforts fail.

The firm sparked another plunge in shares - down as much as 24 per cent - as it alerted in half-year results over a "material uncertainty that casts significant doubt on the group's ability to continue as a going concern".

While it said this was only likely in a worst case scenario, one expert said De La Rue was now left "teetering on the brink".

The share price drop - which has seen shares plummet by two thirds in the past six months alone - means De La Rue owes more in net debts than its stock market value.

De La Rue manufactures about a third of the world's banknotes and employs more than 2,500 people, including hundreds in the North East.

The company has a plant in Gateshead, which experienced job losses in the summer that were blamed on last year’s decision by the Government to give the post-Brexit passport printing contract to a French-Dutch company.

The UK-based firm also prints Bank of England banknotes at Debden, in Essex.

It has suffered a torrid past couple of years, having suffered heavily from losing out on the contract to print British passports to a French company.

The group has warned over profits twice in recent months and its half-year results laid bare the extent of its woes.

De La Rue posted a £12.1 million pre-tax loss for the six months to September 28 against profits of £7.1 million a year earlier.

Underlying operating profits crashed 87.1% to £2.2 million over the first half.

New chief executive Clive Vacher - who replaced former boss Martin Sutherland, who quit in May after a previous profit warning - said he is taking "urgent actions" under a turnaround plan to revive its fortunes.

The firm is also halting shareholder dividend payments and ramping up cost-cutting.

But Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at, said there may be more pain to come for investors.

He said: "De La Rue is teetering on the brink.

"Far from 'drawing a line' under the previous performance before the arrival of Mr Vacher and (chairman) Mr Loosemore, the profits warning in October - the second this year - was only the meat in the rather unsavoury sandwich."

On its first half performance, Mr Vacher said the group had been hit by a raft of management changes and an increasingly competitive banknote printing market.

He restructured the group into two divisions - authentication and currency - earlier this month to lead a recovery and pledged a "full review" will be done by the end of next March.

He is also cutting costs further and faster, going beyond the £20 million a year in savings expected under its previous targets.

The firm said it was too early to comment on any potential impact on jobs.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, said the news was 'very worrying'.

Unite national officer Louisa Bull said: “This is very worrying news today and we are seeking urgent clarification from the company about the future.

“The employment security of our more than 250 members at Gateshead, and at Debden where we have about 150 members, as well as those at other smaller sites across the UK, is Unite’s prime concern.

“The potentially precarious future of De La Rue, a major UK manufacturing company, should be ringing alarm bells across government.

“Unite will be doing all it can in supporting our members at this very difficult time and will continue to campaign strongly to keep vital printing work in the UK.  

“We have previously criticised the government’s short-sighted and blinkered decision to award the printing of post-Brexit UK passports, worth £490 million, to French-Dutch firm Gemalto as it seriously undermined the financial viability of the Gateshead operation.”

Last month, Unite branded a £50,000 leaving package for former boss Martin Sutherland to look for a new job as ‘an outrageous reward for failure’.

As well as dire trading, Mr Vacher is also having to contend with a Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged corruption at its South Sudan business.

And there is an £18 million black hole in the accounts after the company revealed in May that the Venezuelan central bank has been struggling to pay its bills.

Mr Vacher said: "The business has experienced an unprecedented period of change with the chairman, CEO, senior independent director and most of the executive team leaving or resigning in the period."

He said it will "take some time" to get the management team on a steady footing.

But he added: "We have already identified and started to implement the urgent actions needed to stabilise the business and allow us to complete the review."

De La Rue is expecting a better second-half performance as cost savings come through and amid improved trading in its currency arm.

It is forecasting underlying operating profits of between £20 million and £25 million for the full-year.