The Securities and Futures Commission is investigating possible market manipulation in shares of high-technology boom stock, Process Automation (Holdings). It is the first publicly acknowledged investigation by the commission into trading activity that has triggered giddy share price spirals in hi-tech and Internet stocks in recent months. The SFC has launched an investigation into the trading of Process Automation's shares according to Section 31 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance, the company said in a statement yesterday. The firm's board of directors was informed by the SFC that its stock had been targeted by professional investors who might have created 'a false market' to mislead others into believing there had been active trading in its shares. Process Automation is one of the high flyers of the recent technology-linked stocks boom. Its share price rose threefold within a month after it announced expansion plans in the mainland telecommunications sector in August. Process shares rose from 21.9 cents on August 26 to 68 cents on September 23, the day before its suspension. The company received notification from the SFC that it was concerned about the dramatic increase in its share price and trading volume. The company's stock resumes trading today, but it has warned investors to be cautious when dealing in its shares, saying the SFC might suspend it at any time should unusual trading patterns occur again.us100 It is a rare move for a company to announce that the SFC had investigated trading in its shares. At the end of August, Process Automation - an electroplating-machine maker, revealed a plan to expand into the mainland's fast-growing telecommunications sector by seeking further co-operative ventures in Baoding, Hebei province. The ventures are understood to include an alliance with one of the largest mainland mobile-phone operators to launch Internet phone services through a television operator's cable network. This followed the firm's $85 million purchase in early August of a 24.5 per cent stake in Hebei's only cable television operator. Process Automation said the buy was the first step towards starting the 'super-growth-prospect telecommunication business'.