Embattled UK contract research organisation Huntingdon Life Sciences still plans to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange despite 'unprecedented' delay.

Embattled UK contract research organisation Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) still plans to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) despite ’unprecedented’ postponement of its listing.

Shares in HLS’ US-based holding company, Life Sciences Research (LSR), had been due to start trading on 7 September 2005, but at the last minute the NYSE announced that it had decided to postpone the company’s listing. The NYSE has still not revealed to LSR the reasons for the postponement, but a number of animal rights organisations have claimed that their demonstrations against the listing were the deciding factor. 

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), the most prominent anti-HLS group, published contact details of all NYSE management on its web site and asked supporters to e-mail or phone them to register their disapproval. More direct action was reportedly taken by the Animal Liberation Front in the US, which claimed that it had attacked a yacht club in New York frequented by executives from a firm of brokers that planned to trade in LSR shares.

HLS conducts many product testing activities, some of which involve animals, for several pharmaceutical and agrochemical companies. The company has become a major target for animal rights extremists, who have attacked the company, its employees and the financial institutions that support it. 

The company re-located to the US - where it hoped to find a more favourable business climate - in 2002, following the withdrawal of some of its major UK investors. Many anti-HLS organisations, including Shac, did the same, establishing US subsidiary operations. 

Several US government and industry representatives came out in support of LSR and heavily criticised the NYSE’s actions. James Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said: ’I am dismayed that biomedical research has taken a backseat to the pressure tactics of animal rights extremists.’ Greenwood wrote to the chairman and president of the NYSE requesting that they reconsider their decision to postpone LSR’s listing.

Richard Michaelson, chief financial officer at LSR, told Chemistry World that the company hoped a solution to the problem was imminent, adding that there was ’no precedent’ for a listing being postponed at such short notice. 
Jon Evans