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The BBC's John Moylan
"Huntingdon's share price doubled today"
 real 56k

Monday, 22 January, 2001, 18:16 GMT
Lab firm faces fresh struggle
Demonstration outside Royal Bank of Scotland
Activists, who have targeted Huntingdon's City backers, are moving on to the firm's customers
Shares in lab firm Huntingdon Life Sciences surged to among their highest levels in a year on Monday after the company confirmed it had won rescue funding.

The company's share price almost tripled in morning trade following a statement confirming the company had secured a new loan plus cash to cover immediate spending.

The medicines testing firm, which anti-vivisectionists are attempting to close down because of its use of animals in experiments, has sufficient money to survive for at least a year, Monday's briefing said.

But the statement also revealed that the company's UK arm is struggling to secure profitability.

"The US business has continued to trade well although the UK business remains depressed," said the firm, which made a 1.9m loss between July and September.

Customers targeted

The company also faces a further onslaught from animal rights activists, who have pledged to escalate protest actions against both Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and its customers.

Campaigners on Monday targeted GlaxoSmithKline, urging a boycott of the firm's products.

"We have already targeted Glaxo for a number of months on a low level," said Dawn Gifford, spokeswoman for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. "They won't be our only target but they are a target.

"The gloves are off and we mean business. We will close it [Huntingdon] down."

City reaction

Shac's previous targets have included City firms HSBC and West LB Panmure, which both cut ties with Huntingdon following protests by anti-vivisectionists.

Shares in Huntingdon rose more than 80% earlier in the session but closed up 12.5% at 9p.

The price is now far above last week's 1.75p.

Huntingdon stock has not closed above 20p since March last year. The shares hit 23.5p during the morning before falling back.

Liquidation threat

HLS's statement on Monday revealed that the firm would have collapsed without the new cash injection, which was needed to repay 22.6m loaned from the Royal Bank of Scotland and two unnamed US lenders.

"The directors consider that... unless the transaction was completed, receivers/administrators/liquidators would be likely to be appointed," Monday's briefing said.

RBS had refused to extend the repayment deadline, which expired on Friday, for its share of the loan, believed to be 11.6m.

"RBS stated that further finance or facilities would not be made available and, unless the transaction was effected immediately, they would be withdrawn," HLS said.

The repayment deadline, originally set at the end of August, had already been extended three times.

Anonymous backer

The new cash is being channelled to HLS through a separate company in a drive to and protect the investor from animal rights activists.

In an unusual move, City watchdogs have backed the anony,ity clause.

Anti-vivisectionists have pledged to identify Huntingdon's new backer, believed to be a US financial group.

The firm tests products including drugs, foodstuffs and agricultural sprays to ensure they are safe for humans.

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