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DTI to probe IT firm

The Department of Trade and Industry has launched a preliminary inquiry into Display.IT, the troubled online financial company whose shares have been suspended, writes Richard Phillips.

The "pathfinder" inquiry will discover the facts behind Display.IT's share price collapse and its failure to produce evidence of a publicised sales contract with Alsina, a mysterious Luxembourg-based company, and establish whether grounds exist for a full-blown investigation into the company.

The DTI has the power to ban directors, to prosecute for insider dealing in the shares of a company and for other criminal offences. One of the areas the DTI will be examining closely is whether there has been any breach of Section 447 of the Financial Services Act, which concerns market manipulation of a company's share price.

On Friday, caretaker directors of Display.IT, David Ward, and Dr H Hanif, held an extraordinary meeting at the company's offices to present plans for the future. At the meeting - which was standing room only - John Jenkins, the chief executive of JP Jenkins, the stockbroking company that runs Ofex, the share trading facility on which Display.IT was quoted, told shareholders that the shares would not be delisted in the immediate future but would remain suspended for another two-week grace period while the company attempted to sort out its affairs.

The press and non-shareholders were banned from the meeting, which was attended by Peter Levin, the founder and former chief executive who left the board earlier this month.