pounds 20m rescue bid for Huntingdon offered pounds 20m

A CONSORTIUM of investors led by Andrew Baker, a 49-year-old accountant, is offering a pounds 20m cash transfusion as part of a restructuring package for the biological testing group, Huntingdon Life Sciences, whose shares were suspended 10 days ago.

The package, which would mean installing a new management team with Mr Baker as executive chairman, amounts to a takeover of the group, which has been targeted by the animal rights group PETA.

Huntingdon blames this publicity for the loss of several lucrative contracts and failure to win new ones.

The group's borrowing facilities were renegotiated and increased in March, but they are again near their limits, forcing the directors to ask for the shares to be suspended on 31 July. Yesterday it announced a pre-tax loss of pounds 8.4m for the six months to June on top of a pounds 7m loss in 1997.

Mr Baker last year formed FHP, an investment group specialising in supporting the start-up and development of companies in healthcare. He is heading a consortium of three US investment funds and five private investors who are subscribing pounds 15m for 120 million new shares at 12.5p a share, a discount of 36 per cent on the price at which the shares were suspended. Another 57 million new shares will be offered to a small group of investors, raising a further pounds 7.1m net of expenses.

A new two-year revolving credit facility agreed with main bankers is conditional on shareholder approval of the reconstruction at an extraordinary meeting on 2 September.