Huntingdon forced to seek funding from US

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The Independent Online

Huntingdon Life Sciences, the research company targeted by animal rights campaigners, has turned to the US for financing after it could not find a British or European bank to fund its work.

Huntingdon Life Sciences, the research company targeted by animal rights campaigners, has turned to the US for financing after it could not find a British or European bank to fund its work.

The identity of its new backer is being withheld to protect staff and shareholders from the type of aggressive campaign levelled at previous bankers, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and National Westminster Bank, the company said yesterday.

"Lots of banks around the world wanted the business," said Andrew Gay, Huntingdon's marketing director. "What came with it, especially for the high street banks, was the publicity."

The group, which runs Europe's largest vivisection laboratory, said several banks were either unwilling to shoulder the risk of being associated with Huntingdon, or had not offered the long-term lending it sought.

Over the past year, Huntingdon has been subjected to unprecedented pressure by animal rights groups, who have targeted its staff, shareholders and financial backers in an attempt to undermine its share price and, ultimately, drive it out of business. "There has been a heavy campaign against the company and its financial backers," Mr Gay said. "NatWest were being targeted ... that switched to RBS."

NatWest initially provided a two-year overdraft for Huntingdon, first for £24.5m, then for £22.5m, due to expire this month. When the clearer was taken over by RBS, the Scottish bank opted not to renew the facility beyond October.

Both banks attracted protests by animal rights campaigners, who object to Huntingdon's experiments on live animals.

Under yesterday's deal, Huntingdon will sell and lease back its Cambridgeshire base and its Princeton Research Centre in New Jersey to the unnamed US group. The 20 to 25 year deal, which also includes a $15m lending facility, was brokered by FHP Realty, a private US investment firm that is "affiliated" to Huntingdon directors.

An RBS spokesman declined to comment on Huntingdon's case, citing client confidentiality.

Wendy Higgins, campaigns director for the British Union for Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) said: "Huntingdon is going to find it increasingly difficult to find finance and investors."

BUAV, which did not support tactics of intimidation to achieve its aims, "looks forward to the day when Huntingdon closes," Ms Higgins said.

Huntingdon shares yesterday closed unchanged at 8.75p.

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