A funny thing happened to the shares of sleepy Quest Group Plc, the former Quest Automation, of Chandlers Ford, on Friday: they soared 28 pence to 205p. The reason is not a bit funny: the Stock Ex-change information service had posted as a company announcement the contents of a bogus telex sent from a public telex office in Victoria that borrowed the name of a company employee to announce that Quest Automation – the old name – had won a UKP40m contract for electronic conveyer belt machinery in the Soviet Union that would add at least 40% to net asset value (What?). As soon as the reason for the unaccustomed activity in its shares became clear, Quest asked for them to be suspended – by that time they were back down to 191 pence – as traders who had jumped at the words Soviet Union looked more closely at the message and wondered what Quest had to do with conveyer belts. The answer is nothing – but, as is widely known, Quest has been doggedly negotiating with the Russians for some three years now in an effort to sell them personal computers. Negotiating, yes, but there ain’t any contract as yet. Making the affair sound much worse, the Sunday Telegraph alleges that at least one licensed dealer in securities was encouraging clients several days ago to buy Quest shares on the basis of a forthcoming Russian order.
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