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GSK shareholders ask for anonymity

Over 3,000 private investors contact UK firm to transfer to nominee accounts after animal activist threat

Over 3,000 shareholders of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have asked to transfer their ownership into anonymous nominee accounts, following a recent threat by animal activists to display their private details on a website if they refuse to sell their shares.

The British company confirmed that 800 have already filed the paperwork to transfer their stakes, which means their names and addresses are no longer publicly available on the shareholder register.

GSK has also secured a continuation of a High Court injunction it won earlier this month preventing animal rights campaigners from publishing shareholder details on a website.

A letter was sent to shareholders from an unknown group campaigning against animal research firm, Huntingdon Life Sciences. The group claimed it had been set up to ìhold Huntingdon Life Sciences accountable for its acts of animal cruelty.î

While at the time, the activists said all GSK shareholders would be contacted by the middle of May, police believe that only a few hundred out of 170,000 private shareholders actually received letters.

The UK government is considering whether to modify a new law currently under discussion in the House of Lords, which would prevent access to personal shareholder data to those who may use it inappropriately. However, such action could be unpopular, as it would restrict legitimate researchers from finding information they need to identify corporate investors.

GSK chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier has already gone on record as saying he believes the existing laws are sufficient, given that shareholders have the option of transferring their ownership to nominee accounts.

Calling for tougher measures against those he described as ìextremistsî, he insisted that GSK would not be driven out of the UK by the activists.

Meanwhile, GSK has announced that Garnier is extending his term as chief executive by seven months. He had been due to step down in October 2007, when he will be 60, but will now stay on until May 2008.

Three senior executives at the firm have emerged as frontrunners in the succession race for Garnier's position. David Stout, president, pharmaceutical operations, Chris Viehbacher, president, US pharmaceuticals, and Andrew Witty, president, pharmaceuticals Europe are all candidates.

30th September 2008

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