BUSINESS

The bid for Avon that apparently was not

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Avon said it had received no takeover offers Thursday after a purported $8 billion bid for the company filed with federal regulators led to three halts on trading of its shares.

The company said that it can't confirm that the company, calling itself PTG Capital Partners, exists. Calls to the company, purportedly based in London, were unanswered.

Shares of Avon were halted several times due to volatility after the filing appeared on the website used by the Securities and Exchange Commission, a trusted source for investors.

An entity calling itself PTG said in the filing that it had submitted a bid of $18.75 per share to the board at Avon. That was almost triple the stock's closing price on Wednesday, an enormous premium.

The filing contained numerous typos, however, including a misspelling of PTG's own name.

The filing immediately raised questions about the vulnerability of platforms used by investors globally.

Jordan Thomas, a former lawyer at the SEC, said that a bogus filing with the commission to push up the value of a stock would be brazen act, like using unwitting police officers to pull off a heist.

"It's not some bogus blog post that's gone through 15 different countries and servers," said Thomas, now a partner at Labaton Sucharow.  "Any time you put out false information in the marketplace, you leave a trail that can be followed by law enforcement. This trail goes right through the SEC."

The SEC would not comment.

A bid for a struggling Avon would not be surprising and it has happened in recent years, lending more credence to the bid initially.

The company has reported three straight years of losses and declining revenue. It has eliminated jobs and taken other actions to cut costs.

In December, Avon agreed to pay $135 million to settle criminal and civil charges after its China unit pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing officials there.

Company shares have fallen 52 percent over the last 12 months.

Shares of Avon Products Inc. were up 22 cents, or 3.3 percent, at $6.89 in afternoon trading.