Investigation launched on Dutch buyout scam

False press alerts caused Versatel shares to rise...

False press alerts caused Versatel shares to rise...

A legal inquiry has been launched to discover who sent out a false press release claiming Dutch telecoms firm Versatel will soon be bought out.

Share prices for Versatel rose following media reports that Deutsche Telekom would buy the firm.

Although Versatel would not confirm whether the reports were true, the company denied it sent out the press release.

"As a clarification on misinformation in the market, Versatel announces that it did not distribute a press release last night regarding a possible public offer on Versatel. At this moment, no further announcements can be made in addition to the press release of June 14, 2005, in which Versatel announced that discussions regarding a possible strategic cooperation with Belgacom N.V. together with Talpa Capital B.V. have terminated, while other discussions are continuing," the company said.

Versatel has asked Dutch prosecution authorities to find out who was behind the scam. A spokeswoman for the firm added: "It was a fake press release sent out last night. We didn't send it. We are finding out who did this and filing complaints with the attorneys."

Media firms have apologised for failing to check the source of the press release. Dow Jones reported the story as fact, as did ANP, one of the largest Dutch news companies.

The message was apparently sent from an internet email account from the domain shitzooi.nl, an adult web site. A spokesman from shitzooi said: "That's right - we have a legal 'anonymous' mail service on our site and the media did not check the header of the mail - there you can see that it's fake."

In 2001 Versatel filed for bankruptcy protection after it lost €1.7bn building a pan-European cable network.