NatExpress profits help rebuff Elliott

 
City A.M. Reporter
BUS and rail operator National Express yesterday said growing first-quarter profit showed it did not need the radical change of strategy called for by rebel investor Elliott.

The transport group said growth across all of its divisions had helped pre-tax profit grow 30 per cent in the first three months of 2011 and sought to take the sting out of a row with its largest shareholder Elliott Advisors, which has called for a boardroom shake-up and a change of strategy at the company.

“No one is picking up arms to fight each other but Elliott are our largest shareholders with 18 per cent of the company’s stock and deserve a voice – they have put their money where their mouth is and we are listening to them,” chief executive Dean Finch said.

Elliott, a US hedge fund, has recently accused the company of failing to compete for new opportunities and damaging shareholder value.

Elliott also wants National Express investors to elect three new independent directors to push for changes at the firm at its 10 May annual general meeting.

Finch said the company was considering appointing a candidate proposed by Elliott to its board. He said Chris Muntwyler, a former head of DHL’s UK business, was on a six-strong shortlist.