French watchdog to probe hoax that hit Vinci shares

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Paris (AFP)

France's financial markets watchdog said Wednesday it would investigate how a fake press release about French construction giant Vinci caused the company's share price to plummet by a fifth on Tuesday.

The company's shares plunged after several media reported the press release which claimed wrongly Vinci had sacked its chief financial officer and was restating its accounts for 2015 and the first half of 2016 after the discovery of accounting errors amounting to several billion euros (dollars).

The financial markets watchdog (AMF) said "a serious failure of the market" had occurred and it would check "who could have benefited from a potential manipulation of the shares".

Vinci said earlier it was considering what legal action it could bring.

The fake statement was almost indistinguishable from a normal press release from the group but was posted on a so-called mirror site. Only the address was not the normal address and the mobile phone number for the spokesman was incorrect.

Half an hour after sending the original fake statement, the hoaxers sent a fake denial, adding to the confusion, before Vinci issued a genuine denial.

The company's shares fell 19 percent at one point, wiping six billion euros ($6.3 billion) off the company's value.

The shares were suspended for half an hour, and recovered to close down 3.8 percent.

On Wednesday, the shares had still not recouped their losses.

Bloomberg News acknowledged in a story that it had been among the outlets that reported the false release. AFP did not report it.