A spokeswoman from the DTI admitted that it was considering ‘a number of options’ on aiding the company but that making arrangements to appoint an auditor was still a ‘commercial matter’ and that the department was not involved in this.
She added that the DTI is committed to protecting any company against action aimed at preventing it doing legitimate business and that as a key part of the UK’s biosciences industry, it would be keeping a close eye on the situation at HLS.
HLS has been left without an auditor since Deloitte & Touche pulled away from Huntingdon after being targeted by animal rights group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. The offices of D&T and homes of its key partners were targeted by protesters in an intense two-week global campaign, which also saw activist group the Animal Liberation Front damaging property and intimidating employees.
Following its successful campaign SHAC warned that it would not hesitate to carry out the same action if any other firm decided to take on the audit of HLS. It is thought that the firms with the capability to do such an audit would now be reluctant to take the company on as a client.
HLS still has time on its side, as, under the Companies Act, it does not have to announce the appointment or reappointment of an auditor until around October 2004. If it fails to find one within the allotted timescale the company would risk losing its listing on the OTC Bulletin Board in the US.
HLS said: ‘We are keeping our cards close to our chest.’
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