Glaxo wins injunction against animal activists
LONDON, May 10 (Reuters) GlaxoSmithKline Plc secured a rare high court injunction on Tuesday night against an unknown group of animal rights activists, preventing them from publicising names of its shareholders.
The move makes illegal any attempt by campaigners to carry out a threat to publish on a Web site the names and addresses of private investors who refuse to sell their shares in Europe's biggest drugmaker, the company said.
Anyone breaching the injunction could face prosecution for contempt of court, an imprisonable offence.
It is the first time such an injunction has been granted to a company in Britain.
Scores of small shareholders have this week received menacing, unsigned letters demanding that they sell their shares within the next 14 days because of Glaxo's continued use of animal research laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).
Glaxo said the police were treating the matter seriously and had started an investigation.
The mailing follows a prolonged -- and sometimes violent -- campaign by British animal rights groups who demand drug companies end all animal research.
The pharmaceuticals industry argues that using animals remains a vital part of the research and development of new medicines and vaccines.
The activists said in their letter they planned to make Glaxo shares ''plummet''.
In fact, the stock has advanced a net 5 pence, or around 0.3 percent so far this week, although it was down on the day in early trade on Wednesday in line with a weaker European sector.
INVESTORS ''RESOLUTE'' Glaxo Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Garnier said the attack on private shareholders represented a new kind of intimidation and harassment but many investors who had contacted the company this week were ''resolute'' in holding on to their shares.
Many of the world's top 100 medicines were discovered in Britain, the home to industry giants such as Glaxo and AstraZeneca Plc, although the country accounts for less than 4 percent of the world drugs market.
Garnier said future research could be jeopardised unless Britain took a tough line against extremists and enforced legislation to protect legitimate experimentation.
''The UK's science base is an exciting but fragile commodity.
It must be nurtured and protected if it is to remain competitive and fruitful,'' he wrote in an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph.
HLS has been the target for the most vociferous campaigning and intimidation by animal rights activists over the years, eventually leading the company to quit the London stock market.
Glaxo's continued involvement with HLS is regularly condemned by protesters at the company's annual general meeting, which will be held this year on May 17.
Glaxo said allegations of animal cruelty at HLS were unfounded and it would continue to work with HLS as long as the laboratory maintained its current ''high standards'' of animal care.