Huntingdon still in talks with Astra

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The Independent Online
Huntingdon Life Sciences, the drug testing group, said yesterday it was still in discussions with Astra following the Swedish pharmaceutical giant's announcement last week that it was dropping the British company in the wake of allegations of animal cruelty.

Huntingdon dismissed three staff as a result of a covertly filmed Channel 4 programme last month which showed beagles being maltreated.

Christopher Cliffe, Huntingdon's chief executive, claimed yesterday the group had not lost any clients as a result of the programme. Huntingdon was still talking to Astra, which represents 1.3 per cent of turnover, over its press release.

"Our clients are confident this is an isolated incident, but they are awaiting the outcome of the regulatory authorities' investigation."

Both the Department of Health and the Home Office are conducting investigations into the allegations.

Mr Cliffe was talking as Huntingdon announced pre-tax profits had dived from pounds 436,000 to pounds 163,000 in the first quarter to March.

The figures were hit by a more than doubling of unrealised exchange losses totalling pounds 972,000. Huntingdon's shares fell 5p to 96.5p.

Mr Cliffe said the figures were not as high as expected. He blamed competition in specialist areas, such as toxicology, and deferrals of a number of studies for customers until later in the year.

However, he said further cost savings were "trickling" into the current year.