Bonnier fined £290,000 for ramping of Regus shares

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The Independent Online

Robert Bonnier, the former chief executive of Scoot.com, and Indigo Capital, the investment boutique which he helped launch, were fined £290,000 and £65,000 respectively by the City watchdog yesterday, after a series of bogus stock exchange announcements made two years ago relating to a possible takeover bid for Regus.

Mr Bonnier, who had sole responsibility for Indigo's investments, made a series of announcements to the London market at the end of 2002, indicating that Indigo was building its stake in Regus, the mobile office provider.

But market observers spotted a contradiction when in January 2003, Indigo released a statement saying it was considering a bid for Regus, on the same day that it reduced its stake.

It emerged that Indigo did not in fact directly own the 13 per cent stake in Regus which it had claimed, but instead held a series of complex derivative contracts through Cantor Fitzgerald. Indigo's actual stake was just 0.12 per cent.

The incident is not the first time that Mr Bonnier - who was an inaugural shareholder of Indigo, eventually becoming managing director in January 2002 - has been investigated by the authorities for questionable share dealing. Four years ago, the Department of Trade & Industry launched an inquiry into a series of deals made by Mr Bonnier while he was at Swiss Bank in the 1990s. However, no action was ever taken as a result.

Andrew Procter, the Financial Services Authority's director of enforcement, said yesterday: "The repeated actions of Mr Bonnier, an experienced market practitioner, and Indigo's failure adequately to oversee his activities, fall far short of the standards the FSA expects.

"The smooth operation of the financial markets relies on the provision of accurate information to enable participants to make reasoned investment decisions about a company's shares. The announcements made by Regus, which were based exclusively on the notifications made by Mr Bonnier, were a substantive source of information for the market in Regus' shares. In providing inaccurate information, Mr Bonnier created a false and misleading impression as to the supply of, demand for, or the price or value of Regus' shares.

"Investors need to have confidence in the integrity of the processes by which shares are traded and that information disclosed to the market is accurate."

Mr Bonnier, who now operates through Cold Investments Limited, began rebuilding a stake in Regus this summer, and along with Cantor Fitzgerald, now has an interest in the company of more than 12 per cent.

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