THE Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is to investigate the share deals that gave the Lippo Group a majority stake in Asia Securities. This follows a request from Chinachem, whose counter-bid for Asia Securities was effectively blocked when Lippo's Hongkong China subsidiary increased its stake in the target company to 50.32 per cent by buying 91.9 million shares on the open market on Monday. Hongkong China launched its $1.54-a-share bid on May 19, but its plans were snagged when Chinachem, which owns 15.2 per cent of Asia Securities, unveiled a counter-bid at $1.98 a share two days later. Despite the Chinachem offer, Hongkong China was able to buy two large blocks of shares in the market at $1.91 each and another at $1.90. The three blocks totalled 91.9 million shares. Chinachem director Joseph Leung said yesterday that his company and its financial adviser had been astonished both by the prices and the ways the transactions had been put together. He said: ''We have never been approached by third parties on selling their Asia Securities shares in such quantities and at such prices. ''We would expect those sellers to shop around in the hope of securing the highest prices, but it was simply not the case.'' An SFC spokesman said there would be an investigation. He did not know how long it would take. Lippo director John Lee Luen-wei hit back at Chinachem. He said that if the rival bidder had been sincere in its offer, it could have bought shares in the marketplace, where there had been no lack of willing sellers at $1.91 a share. While he stressed that he could not speak for the minority shareholders, he said: ''They may consider the offer by Chinachem to have been bounded by too many conditions and they want to cash in sooner.'' Chinachem's offer, which was led by Schroder Securities, was conditional on its acceptance by owners of 75 per cent of Asia Securities' shares. Mr Lee said Monday's transactions had been carried out by the group's brokerage. While he knew there were about five to six vendors involved, he had no idea of their identities. He said that whether the vendors were parties friendly to the Lippo Group was something that should be decided by the SFC and the stock exchange. Mr Lee welcomed the investigation by the SFC. He said he believed the Hongkong stock market was transparent enough for such an inquiry to be carried out. He said Hongkong China had bought a further four million Asia Securities shares at about $1.91 per share yesterday. Stockbrokers were surprised at the gap between Chinachem's bid of $1.98 a share and the prices accepted by sellers of blocks in the market. The owners of the blocks would have realised an extra $6.5 million had they held out for the price offered by Chinachem. Mr Leung said: ''We have no idea of who those sellers were. If we had, we would certainly have approached them for their shares.'' He said Chinachem had bought more than 30 million Asia Securities shares on the open market at prices below $1.98 in the week after it launched its counter-bid. That had taken Chinachem's holding in the company from 15.2 per cent to about 21 per cent. He said the company would decide on the next step in the takeover battle after consultation with its financial adviser. The SFC yesterday issued a release on the trading of Asia Securities shares on Monday. Asia Securities director Horace Cheng Lung-don sold 200,000 shares at $1.93. Chinachem was the buyer of these shares. In all, Greenwood International, Chinachem's nominee company, bought about eight million shares at prices ranging from $1.85 to $1.92. SBCI senior analyst Adrian Ngan said he expected Hongkong China to increase the capital base of Asia Securities after it had successfully consolidated its holding in the company. It might do this through a placement or rights issue, he said. The ultimate aim would be for Asia Securities to buy assets from Lippo Group. While Chinachem appeared to have lost the takeover battle, Mr Ngan believed that the property group could well afford to hold on to its stake in Asia Securities as a passive investor. With the news that the takeover battle was over, Asia Securities shares yesterday fell to $1.90 from $1.92 on turnover of 12.6 million shares. Chinachem and Hongkong China had 15.2 per cent and 34.47 per cent, respectively, of Asia Securities before launching their bids. Chinachem's bid valued the target at $1.15 billion. Hongkong China's initial offer valued Asia Securities at $968 million, its second bid at $1.1 billion. Hongkong China is 66.4 per cent-owned by Lippo.