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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Lab firm ditched by share brokers
Animal rights activists have claimed a fresh victory over Huntingdon Life Sciences after the drug testing firm's last remaining market maker said it would no longer deal in the company's shares.
City giant Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein said its decision was a result of its policy not to act as sole market maker for any stock.
It follows the withdrawal on Tuesday of Huntingdon's other market maker, Winterflood.
Market makers hold large amounts of a company's shares and create a marketplace for them by acting as a wholesaler to other brokers.
Dresdner's decision means it is likely to become much harder to trade in Huntingdon Life Science shares.
Under London Stock Exchange rules, Huntingdon has 10 days to find another two market makers or be downgraded to a more restricted trading platform.
It is unlikely to be de-listed entirely.
Huntingdon said Dresdner's decision was "understandable".
Hundtingdon shares were 36% down at 4p at 1130 GMT on Wednesday, valuing the firm at around £11m.
Huntingdon stocks have lost four-fifths of their value over the past two years as financial backers and customers walked away under pressure from animal rights campaigners.
The campaigners aim to drive the UK's oldest drugs testing laboratory out of business.
If Huntingdon does not find another two market makers, its shares will drop from the SEAQ trading platform, which matches the bid and ask through market makers, to the SEATS plus platform.
This is reserved for smaller companies in the junior AIM alternative investment market.
'Next in line'
Winterflood bowed out as a market maker for Huntingdon, which uses animals for drugs testing, following demonstrations by animal rights activists at the homes of director Ian Throssell and chairman Brian Winterflood.
Dresdner has not yet been targeted by the campaigners - but a spokesman for animal rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty said it would have been next in line.
"They can see that if Winterflood goes, they step into the frame," said Greg Avery, press spokesman for the group.
A spokesman for Huntingdon said it was "saddening and disappointing" that business decisions in the UK could be influenced by "terrorists".
Huntingdon stressed that it was still listed on the London Stock Exchange with an effective trading platform for routine dealing.
The company came close to bankruptcy last year and struggled to find financial backers when several major investors sold their stakes.
Bankers withdrew support over fears of fire-bomb attacks and death threats to employees.
Last week, Huntingdon revealed an annual loss of £10.9m, nearly twice that reported for 1999.