Stock Exchange reopens Archer shares inquiry

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The Independent Online
THE STOCK EXCHANGE has re- opened its investigation into the way Lady Archer and key executives of Anglia Television handled the company's price-sensitive takeover by MAI.

'Additional information' not available when the Stock Exchange held an earlier investigation was given yesterday as the prime reason for re-examining the purchase and quick resale of 50,000 Anglia shares by Lady Archer's husband, Lord Archer, days before the pounds 292m takeover bid was announced.

Both the Stock Exchange and the stockbrokers involved, Charles Stanley, told the Department of Trade and Industry of their initial inquiries when they became 'suspicious' of Lord Archer's purchase in January this year. However, by reopening the investigation, to be conducted by the surveillance department, the Stock Exchange has in effect signalled, says an insider, that 'there are new questions that we do not have answers to'.

Neither Lord Archer nor Lady Archer was available for comment yesterday. However, the Anglia board has said it accepted Lady Archer acted within Stock Exchange rules. Lord Archer has denied that he benefited from the deal.

It has been reported that the Stock Exchange re-examination is limited to whether Lady Archer 'took sufficient steps' to prevent her husband from being involved in share-dealing in Anglia - the company where she is a non-executive director. However, the scope of the Stock Exchange re-examination is now understood to be far wider and will, said one source, 'go over the same ground that first caused concern over Lord Archer's involvement in the share deal'.

The 'additional information' is thought to centre on details that form part of the DTI's confidential report into the affair. The five- month DTI investigation led to Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, announcing on 28 July that no action would be taken against Lord Archer. The Stock Exchange's re-investigation, the results of which are likely to prove difficult to keep confidential, will increase pressure on the DTI to open its report to independent scrutiny. Robin Cook, Labour's trade and industry spokesman, has called for the Crown Prosecution Service to be given access to the report to evaluate Mr Heseltine's decision.