Euro Disney takeover bid investigated

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MUNICH -- A hostile takeover attempt of the French theme park Euro Disney from late last year is being investigated by German financial regulators for possible market manipulation, a regulator spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The case involves a small Swiss company, Center-Tainment, which is listed on the Frankfurt bourse. The takeover attempt fizzled quickly after it was announced Nov. 29, according to the Financial Times U.K., but not before Euro Disney's share price had increased by more than a third before slumping back to normal levels when it became clear that Center-Tainment was incapable of making a realistic offer.

A spokeswoman for the regulator, known by its German acronym BaFin, said that the investigation had been launched on Monday. The Financial Times said that the French financial watchdog AMF was also looking into the case.

"Whenever there is a takeover offer announced [by a company listed in Germany]," said the spokeswoman, "we routinely analyze price movements before and after the offer. If we see something that needs to be looked at more closely, we launch a formal investigation. That is what has happened in this case."

Market manipulation is a criminal offense in Germany, added the spokeswoman. If evidence is found of criminal intent, BaFin will refer the case to the attorney general. If found guilty, perpetrators face up to five years in prison as well as fines that can run into millions of euros.
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