The Marketplace Report: Animal Rights NYSE Victory
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Animal rights activists are welcoming a decision to halt the New York Stock Exchange listing of one of the world's biggest medical research companies. Shares of the British company Huntingdon Life Sciences were due to start trading on Wall Street yesterday, but the listing was pulled at the last minute, apparently because of pressure from the animal welfare lobby. Joining us from the "Marketplace" London bureau is Stephen Beard.
And, Stephen, what happened here? Did Wall Street cave in to pressure?
STEPHEN BEARD reporting:
It certainly looks like it, Madeleine. I should explain that this is, in some quarters, a very unpopular company because it uses live animals in some of its laboratory testing. What happened yesterday, though, was interesting. Huntingdon's chief executive, Brian Cass, arrived at the NYSE for the launch of his company's shares, big day, weeks of preparation. He says there were signs up everywhere saying, `Welcome, Life Sciences, to the New York Stock Exchange.' He was very warmly received by all and sundry. And, then, just before trading was due to begin, Cass says he was told the listing was not going to go ahead as planned.
Mr. BRIAN CASS (Huntingdon's Chief Executive): All they expressed were that there--had certain concerns that had been raised, which they felt they needed a period to consider, and, therefore, the listing was being postponed. And that is the extent of the information that we have.
BEARD: But there can't be very much doubt about what those concerns were. An animal welfare group had sent out thousands of e-mails, threatening the exchange with direct action if the listing went ahead. And where Huntingdon is concerned, direct action usually means something pretty unpleasant, but very effective.
BRAND: What do you mean by that? What has Huntingdon had to face in the past?
BEARD: Well, the company, in fact, came to the US because of the problems it faced in the UK. I mean, animal welfare activists were targeting any company that had any business at all with Huntingdon, with noisy protests and sometimes violent protests. That meant banks, insurance companies--protesters would turn up outside their premises, and even the homes of their executives. In the end, the British government had to offer the company an account at the Bank of England because none of the commercial banks would go near the company.
BRAND: And so what does the New York Stock Exchange say about Huntingdon and the share listing?
BEARD: Well, just that the listing has been postponed. An investor in the company quoted in the UK press this morning was a bit more forthright. He said, `I'm astonished that the New York Stock Exchange would knuckle under to a load of English hippies.' But knuckle under is exactly what a lot of British stockbrokers and bankers and money men did when Huntingdon had its HQ here.
Well, anyway, later today on "Marketplace," we'll be looking at a very different but also difficult business environment. We'll be talking to some of the companies that aren't able to leave New Orleans and finding out how they'll survive until the city reopens for business.
BRAND: Stephen Beard of public radio's daily business show "Marketplace," and "Marketplace" is produced by American Public Media.