Versatel, the Dutch telecoms company, on Thursday denied it was the source of an e-mail announcing that it may be bought by Deutsche Telekom, triggering legal and regulatory probes into the document's origin.
Dutch media received the e-mail, purportedly from Versatel and Talpa, an investment company that is its biggest shareholder, shortly after midnight on Thursday and broke the news shortly after 7am.
Versatel shares rose 4 per cent at the opening and closed 1.6 per cent higher at €1.59, valuing the company at €922m ($1.1bn).
It had been the subject of takeover speculation since May.
Betten Beurs Media, a financial website, and ANP, the national press association, later accepted they had acted without checking the document's authenticity. Both agencies apologised and withdrew their stories.
In an official statement, Versatel said: “As a clarification on misinformation in the market, Versatel announces that it did not distribute a press release last night regarding a possible public offer on Versatel.”
However, Cilesta van Doorn, a Versatel spokeswoman whose name and contact details were included in the e-mail, said: “I am not going to say we are not in talks with [Deutsche Telekom], but let's just say it is not in this manner.”
Versatel on Thursday filed a claim with the Dutch public prosecutor related to the unauthorised distribution of a false press release.
Thomas Notermans, a spokesman for John de Mol, the billionaire television tycoon who owns Talpa, was also named in the e-mail.
He said Talpa never issued press releases about discussions it was holding, and it had filed a complaint with the prosecution department.AFM, the Dutch securities regulator, said it was looking into share price developments relating to Thursday's events.
Speculation has circled around Versatel since it announced in early May that it was talking to Belgacom, the Belgian telecoms company, and Talpa about strategic co-operation.
In June it called off the Belgacom talks, but said other discussions were continuing. Talpa has a stake of about 42 per cent in Versatel, which has a market capitalisation of €980m.
The telecoms group has also been the subject of speculation linking it to Sweden's Tele2 and TeliaSonera.