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GSK shareholders targeted by animal rights group

British firm condemns letter threatening investors with public disclosure of their personal details

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has won a high court injunction against a group of animal rights activists, preventing them from publicising names of the UK pharma firmís private shareholders.

Shareholders had received threatening letters from a previously unheard of group calling itself Campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, demanding they sell their shares in the company within two weeks or face having their personal details made public on a website.

In the letter, the group of activists said it had decided to target GSKís ìfinancial vulnerabilityî to force it to stop using Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), an animal research laboratory, saying shares in GSK would ìplummetî as a result of its action. It cited similar tactics used against HLS, which was forced to relocate its headquarters in the US after its share price fell dramatically and it was delisted from the London Stock Exchange.

In a statement, GSK said the injunction, issued by the High Court in London on Tuesday night (May 9),  ìprohibits anyone acting, in connection with the letter sent outÖ from engaging in further harassment against GSK shareholders, including publicising their details on a websiteî.

Britainís biggest pharma company had previously posted information on its website advising small shareholders who wish to protect their privacy to transfer their shares into GSKís corporate nominee service, which provides anonymity for stock holders.

GSK said it ìutterly condemnedî the letter campaign and had informed the police who have started an investigation into the matter.

ìGSK will continue to work with HLS as long as they continue to meet current high standards of animal welfare,î it said.

A GSK spokeswoman said the company did not expect its share price to be affected. Private investors own less than five per cent of the stock, with the remainder held by institutions.

A spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry described the letter as ìthe latest attempt by a tiny number of extremists to force their views on to the majority through coercionî.

ìThe general public is becoming increasingly vocal in standing up to such extremist tactics ñ as shown by the recent Pro-Test movement in Oxford,î he said. ìThreatening thousands of shareholders is no way to promote your views in a democratic society.î

It is not known how many shareholders have received the letter. GSK said it had been contacted by about 100 individual investors on Monday; about 167,000 private shareholders are currently listed on the companyís share registry.

30th September 2008


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