FSA probes Chelsea shareholdings

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The Independent Football

The takeover of Chelsea Football Club by the Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich was thrust back into the spotlight today as it emerged that a second probe into shares in the team had been launched.

The Financial Services Authority, said it was investigating the ownership of Chelsea Village, which owns the club, after it was tipped off that details of shareholdings before the takeover could have been been wrong.

The probe comes on top of a separate investigation into share dealings ahead of the offer by Mr Abramovich's bid vehicle Chelsea Limited on July 1.

Shares in the company, which were valued at just 14p in April, had climbed to 28p before news of the takeover broke prompting fears that some individuals may have benefited financially from prior knowledge of a deal.

However there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the parties involved in the takeover.

A statement from the Takeover Panel, a City body overseeing mergers and acquisitions, today also emphasised that the latest probe was not connected to Chelsea Limited and was therefore unlikely to affect the timetable for the takeover.

Investors who own more than 3% of a firm are required by law to disclose the fact publicly but the FSA said that a number of sources had come forward with information suggesting that some of this information may have been inaccurate.

It warned: "The FSA is concerned that as a consequence the market may have been misled as to the true ownership of Chelsea Village."

The FSA said that it attached great importance to accurate disclosures to ensure that the markets operate in an "efficient, orderly and clean" manner.

Should the FSA decide that the matter is serious enough to merit a full formal investigation it has the power to impose unlimited fines or name and shame the individual concerned.

The offer from Mr Abramovich, who is a major shareholders in Russian oil firm Sibneft, surprised the sporting world when it was unveiled after the stock market had closed on July 1.

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