Watchdog investigates share shop blunders in flotation of Thomson

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SHARE shops involved in the flotation of Thomson Travel are under investigation from the Securities and Futures Authority (SFA), the industry regulatory, over the administrative errors which caused tens of thousands of potential investors to miss out on shares.

The SFA has acted on numerous complaints from private investors by contacting share shops to seek an explanation. It could force the brokers to compensate the huge number of people who have not been able to buy shares and has the power to levy fines if its finds they have been at fault.

Thousands of investors who registered early for shares failed to receive application forms in time. Share shops also failed to cope with the huge rush of investors who registered at the last moment. Those who were awarded an allocations saw their shares gain 23.5p on the 170p flotation price.

Share shops involved in the flotation include The Share Centre, Barclays Stockbrokers, Hargreaves Landsdown, NatWest Stockbrokers and Skipton Building Society.

Thomson has tries to placate investors by offering them the chance to enjoy flotation perks such as 10 per cent off all the holidays. But these investors will have to buy shares at a higher price in the market to receive discounts on holidays after 31 December. And Thomson has come under fire for not allocating extra shares in the flotation to those who missed out through no fault of their own. The sharp rise in the share price means Thomson's directors, led by Paul Brett, the chief executive, are already sitting on a profit of more than pounds 750,000 from the shares they were able to purchase in the flotation.

Mr Brett said: "I am absolutely delighted at the level of support we had at the flotation from the public. We believe we have come up with a fair compromise for those people that missed out on the shares. They can get 10 per cent off their holidays which is worth pounds 125 for an average family up to December and keep their pounds 500 in the bank and earn interest on it."

Thomson Corporation of Canada, which sold the tour operator, is expected raise a minimum of pounds 1.25bn from the sale, representing a gain to the parent company of about pounds 813m.