Stock Exchange to probe briefing claim

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THE STOCK Exchange is to look into allegations that analysts were selectively briefed earlier this week before downgrading their profit forecasts for Imperial Chemical Industries, writes Andrew Verity.

Shares in ICI continued to fall yesterday, slipping 16p to 979p on the back of suspicions that the group will suffer heavily from the impact of the Asian crisis and exchange rates.

ICI yesterday dismissed suggestions it may have broken Stock Exchange rules on revealing price sensitive information to selected people.

John Edgar, a spokesman, said: "The investor relations team [which speaks to analysts] are not going to be talking about speculative information which they wouldn't have anyway."

Questions began to be asked on Wednesday as two brokers, Credit Suisse First Boston and Credit Lyonnais, downgraded their profit forecasts.

Both put out profit forecasts for the full year of pounds 500m. However, Mr Edgar said another broker, Sutherlands, had forecast pounds 400m.