Elliott piles pressure on UK targets

Activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors has stepped up its assault on two UK companies after garnering the support of extra shareholders.

At National Express, where it has built up a 17 per cent stake and called for a shake-up of strategy, it is expected to receive the backing of the transport group’s largest shareholder, Spain’s Cosmen family.

The Cosmen family, a major investor in National Express since 2005, holds a 20 per cent stake but has not publicly backed the board.

Sources close to National Express told City A.M. the family “has been a long term supporter of the company” and it “remains to be seen” which side of the debate it will support.

Meanwhile, at Alliance Trust, where Elliott recently bought a three per cent stake, stockbroker Brewin Dolphin is set to meet management tomorrow to persuade it to discuss its share price performance, which trades at a discount to the firm’s net asset value.

Elliott has not yet demanded any changes at Alliance Trust, which manages £2.4bn of funds, but in February Laxey Partners, another activist fund with a 1.3 per cent stake, called for a control mechanism to reduce its gaping 17-20 per cent share price discount.

Brewin Dolphin is said to be representing shareholders that own a combined four per cent of the firm’s stock, who all want the firm to shake up its strategy.