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[ May 20th 2004 ]

The Financial Services Authority is considering the launch of an investigation into Eidos, publisher of the Tomb Raider computer games, after the company yesterday scotched rumours that it was facing a takeover bid, sending its shares crashing more than 30 per cent. Eidos said that it had not received any takeover approaches nor had any indication that a bid might emerge. The statement quashed speculation that had boosted Eidos shares by a third since March.

The company added to its woes by issuing a veiled profit warning, admitting sales of its top-selling game Hitman: Contracts would fall about 700,000 units, or about 25 per cent, short of expectations. Mike McGarvey, chief executive, said that unexpected weakness in the US games market would lead to a shortfall in sales that would have contributed about £9 million to profits. He added that the actual impact on profits was hard to gauge. Eidos shares plunged 56½p, or 31.4 per cent, to 120½p, their lowest since August last year.

Speculation that Eidos was facing a takeover bid was fuelled this month when it appeared a wealthy City investor had made a large bet that its shares would rise. The rumours focused on Robert Bonnier, the former investment banker who made a fortune out of Scoot.com, the online directories business. However, following yesterday’s plunge in the value of Eidos shares the investor is likely to be sitting on significant paper losses. Schroders Investment Management is also sitting on a loss, having recently lifted its stake to almost 22 per cent.

A spokesman for the FSA said it did not comment on individual companies. City sources said the watchdog would consider an investigation in view of the trading activity and share price movements.

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