May 18, 2017 / 11:53 AM / 8 months ago

Finnish watchdog asks police to investigate Nokian Tyres

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s financial watchdog wants the police to investigate tyre maker Nokian Tyres (NRE1V.HE) over possible misuse of insider information, the National Bureau of Investigations said on Thursday.

The request follows the watchdog’s own investigation into the tyre maker’s acknowledgement last year that it had supplied special high-quality tyres for tests by motoring journalists, leading to stronger test scores that helped garner good publicity.

The Financial Supervisory Authority has asked the bureau to investigate whether Nokian misused insider information or breached disclosure laws, Inspector Erkki Rossi told Reuters by telephone. He said the bureau would appoint a person to decide whether to launch the requested investigation.

Last year, shares in the tyre maker fell after the company admitted the use of high quality tyres in tests. Daily Helsingin Sanomat later reported that some members of the company’s management team had sold options before it went public about the specially designed tyres.

Nokian said in a statement on Thursday that it did not wish to make any comment at the moment.

Its shares initially fell 2 percent on news of the watchdog’s request, but were flat by 1334 GMT.

The motor industry is sensitive to accusations of test manipulation after carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) in 2015 admitted installing illegal software to conceal the true level of emissions from some of its diesel vehicles.

    Nokian Tyres has defended its practises, saying that the use of special tyres happened in the past and tests in its main markets have been reliable for years.

    It had launched an internal investigation into the matter in October 2015, and the reported option trades took place in October and November 2015, before the company went public with the past practises.

    Nokian’s previous CEO Ari Lehtoranta told Reuters last year that the company saw no reason to forbid the trades because of the issue.

    Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; writing by Jussi Rosendahl; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton

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