UPDATE 1-Actelion up as hedge fund calls for board shake-up
* Elliott Advisors has nearly 6 percent stake in Actelion
* Letter calls for chairman and CEO to resign from board
* Actelion says has received letter, to react in due course
* Shares rise 3.5 percent
(Recasts with detail from letter, shares, analyst comment)
By Paul Arnold and Quentin Webb
ZURICH/LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Actelion (ATLN.VX) shares rose 3.5 percent on Friday after hedge fund shareholder Elliott Advisors called for its chairman and chief executive to resign from the board in a push for a sale of the Swiss biotech firm.
The shares have been trading in a tight range since mid-November, when Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel sought to quash takeover speculation, saying maintaining independence was the best way to ensure value for the company's shareholders. [ID:nN11148175]
Elliott said Clozel's attitude to a potential sale of the company was not in shareholders' interests.
"We believe his public statements and apparent campaign to keep the company independent are wholly inconsistent with his position as a board member and the fiduciary requirements of that role, i.e. the protection of shareholders' best interests," it wrote to Actelion.
A copy of the letter was obtained by Reuters.
Rumours of a possible buyout buffeted the company's share price through the autumn, with the favourite mooted suitor being U.S. biotech giant Amgen (AMGN.O).
No offer for the company has emerged but many analysts think a sale to a large drugmaker that is hungry to add new products would make sense.
"We believe that a takeover would release substantial value and we continue to believe that the risk-reward balance in Actelion is very attractive," said Kepler Research analyst Tero Weckroth.
Shares in Actelion were up 3.5 percent at 0850 GMT, outperforming a flat Stoxx European Healthcare index .SXDP.
The Elliott letter was addressed to Actelion directors on Thursday. It demanded that chairman Robert Cawthorn and chief executive Clozel step down from the board.
Elliott Advisors said management was not addressing concerns about Actelion's strategic direction and said the share price was too low. The hedge fund said it had a stake of nearly 6 percent in Actelion, up from just over 3 percent before Christmas.
"We have received the letter. The board is looking at it and will react when the time is right," Actelion spokesman Roland Haefeli said.
Actelion shares gained strongly in the final months of 2010 on talk the world's largest biotech company Amgen (AMGN.O) or others could be interested in making an offer for the Swiss company.
The group's efforts to reduce its dependence on key drug Tracleer, which treats a rare heart and lung disorder and rakes in more than $1 billion a year, have been thwarted by a string of setbacks.
Actelion management has continually said the company wants to remain independent. [ID:nLDE6AG037] [ID:nLDE69J2BX] (Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Dan Lalor and Ben Hirschler)
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