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Friday, 9 February, 2001, 16:24 GMT
Lab protesters target stockbroker
Protesters outside Huntingdon facility in Suffolk
Protesters have vowed to identify and target Huntingdon investors
By the BBC's Declan Curry

The old City game of running a share up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes is continuing, with Huntingdon Life Sciences as Friday's flag of choice.

The share price of the beleaguered medical research and animal testing company has jumped 25% or 1.5 pence to 7.5p. Just over 300,000 of the company's shares have changed hands, which is fairly thin volume.

The market makers tell us that there is nothing going on with the company. The view is that someone is pushing up the price to encourage some speculative buying.

The share price rise comes as animal rights protesters who want to shut the company down prepare to start protests outside the Birmingham offices of the internet stockbroker Charles Schwab.

Schwab looks after 5.5 million Huntingdon shares on behalf of investors. It says it will not back down in the face of the protests - due to start next week.

Hidden identities

This will reassure many of the remaining investors in this company. Given the history of violence and intimidation from some of the anti-Huntingdon protesters, the key issue for the investors is secrecy.

Their true identities remain hidden so long as stockbroking companies such as Schwab hold the shares in nominee accounts.

The nominee shield means their individual names and addresses do not appear on the shareholder register. If they owned the shares directly their private details would have to be published by law in this publicly-available document.

The protesters know this, and that is why they are now targeting the retail stockbrokers.

If they can pressure them into dropping their nominee accounts for Huntingdon, they will then know who the individual shareholders are... and where they live.

Last month, Huntingdon was rescued from receivership by Stephens Group of the US, its largest shareholder with a 15.7% stake.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Business
US group bails out Huntingdon
22 Jan 01 | Business
Lab firm faces fresh struggle
19 Jan 01 | Business
Research industry under threat
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