Garnier pick fails to quell Elliott

ACTIVIST investor Elliott Advisors turned up the pressure on Swiss biotech company Actelion yesterday, pushing for further board changes.

Elliott conceded that it could not top Actelion’s proposal to add two pharma heavyweights, including former GlaxoSmithKline head Jean-Pierre Garnier (pictured), to the board.

But the hedge fund argued their presence would not do enough to improve strategy, and called for shareholders to lift the current 11-person board size limit to enable it to add six of its own nominees too.

“Elliott has decided to support the Garnier and [Robert] Bertolini nominations,” Elliott said, but added the move “does not go far enough to create real change that will increase shareholder value.”

Elliott wants shareholders to vote at the annual meeting in May to remove seven of the current nine directors and add six of its own. But if shareholders vote to retain some or all of the current team – plus Actelion’s two candidates, Garnier and former Schering-Plough chief financial officer Robert Bertolini – Elliott’s candidates would be blocked.

Elliott’s directors – five pharma executives and a banker – also wrote to shareholders criticising Actelion’s drug pipeline and governance. Sources close to Actelion told City A.M. Elliott’s changing demands were “a moving target” for the board.