Alliance Trust preparing for record turnout

 
Tim Wallace
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Alliance Trust boss Katherine Garrett-Cox opposes the changes
RECORD numbers of shareholders could show up at Alliance Trust’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, at the climax of a battle between the board and activist investor Elliott Advisors.

Last year, 143 shareholders came to the event. This year, the investment firm has prepared overflow areas at the Dundee venue, in anticipation of the 400-seat auditorium filling to capacity.

The firm is also understood to have received far more votes this year than in 2014.

Elliott has argued that the firm’s returns are poor, and wants to add three new directors to the board to put more pressure on executives.

By contrast, Alliance Trust says it has made substantial improvements to returns and is reshaping the business for the future.

The firm is unusual as around 70 per cent of shares are owned by small investors, preventing a group of institutions clubbing together to force through changes.

The result hangs in the balance between investors who want better returns, and those who fear a US hedge fund will not act in their interests.

Elliott, which has a 12 per cent stake in Alliance Trust, has been engaged in a war of words with the company since March, and has been backed by governance and proxy groups Pirc, ISS and ShareSoc.

Meanwhile DC Thomson, with a 5.5 per cent stake opposes the changes, as do a series of City bosses including Icap’s Michael Spencer and BAE Systems’ Sir Roger Carr.

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