PCCW's HK$15.9 billion privatisation faces possible delay as the securities regulator combs through records of shareholders' votes and share transfers for evidence of vote-buying to secure the deal, sources said. Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) staff attended an acrimonious meeting of shareholders on Wednesday at which the deal was approved, and took away documents. Shareholder-rights activist David Webb last week alleged that hundreds of Fortis Insurance sales agents had each received 1,000-share lots of PCCW stock in return for pledging to vote in favour of the deal. Critics accuse PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai of privatising the telecom for a bargain-basement price at the expense of small shareholders who bought the stock during the dotcom boom and have seen its price drop by more than 90 per cent. Trading in PCCW shares resumes today. The company will disclose whether it has found any evidence of improper share transfers. The privatisation needs High Court approval. If it is granted, PCCW plans to delist from the stock exchange on February 25. However, that timetable may be in jeopardy. Sources said the SFC's investigation, which will focus on ownership and transfers of ownership of 1,000-share lots in PCCW stock, would involve inquiries worldwide. They said it would be difficult to complete the investigations in time for the court hearing this month and it would be up to the court to decide whether to adjourn the hearing while inquiries continue. 'The court could adjourn the meeting for two or three months and wait for the investigation results if the court believed such investigation might affect the deal,' said Raymond So Wai-man, a finance expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Professor So said the court could annul the vote if it found there was sufficient evidence of vote-buying, in which case the deal would lapse. Sources said investigators would look for evidence of attempts to rig the vote and whether they affected the outcome. If evidence of wrongdoing was found but it did not affect the outcome of the vote, that evidence would be passed to police but the vote would stand. Asked whether the SFC should have sought to block the shareholders meeting, the sources said the meeting was court-ordered. One source said: 'You cannot have vote-rigging unless there is a vote. The shareholders had to be given their opportunity to vote.' Mark Stewart, the SFC's executive director of enforcement, said the commission was 'working to clear the air'. Chan Ka-keung, secretary for financial services and the treasury, said the government would not intervene in the SFC's investigation.