* Board taken steps to allow changes in management structure
* Actelion facing criticism from largest shareholder
* Elliott Advisors holds more than 6 pct of Actelion
* Actelion AGM on May 5
ZURICH, April 30 (Reuters) - Swiss biotech group Actelion ATLN.VX, under fire from its largest shareholder, plans to make changes to its management structure, its vice-chairman was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Actelion faces a tough battle for votes at its AGM next Thursday after being accused of eroding shareholder value and following a high-risk strategy by Elliott Advisors, its biggest single shareholder with a stake of more than 6 percent. [ID:nLDE73S0I3]
Elliott has also criticised Actelion’s management structure. It says too many top managers report directly to Chief Executive Jean-Paul Clozel, so that the company’s decision-making process is too centralised.
But Actelion Vice-Chairman Joe Scodari told Switzerland’s BaslerZeitung the board had already started taking steps to allow changes to the management structure.
“The management structure needs to be adjusted to the fast-growing size of the company. We have explicitly decided to wait with decisions so that we do not create more uncertainty in this currently hectic environment,” Scodari said.
In a letter to shareholders printed in Switzerland’s Finanz und Wirtschaft, Actelion’s board said it was proposing to make changes to the group’s management and management structure, and urged shareholders to back current chairman Robert Cawthorn so the changes can be made.
Elliott wants Cawthorn to step down from the board.
Elliott has called on the $7.7 billion company to consider putting itself up for sale after a string of product setbacks last year thwarted Actelion’s efforts to cut its dependence on key drug Tracleer, which treats a rare heart and lung disorder.
The battle between the two companies will come to a head at the AGM. Scodari said the group was “pretty optimistic” it would come through with its proposals, although he cautioned it was hard to predict the outcome.
Scodari said it was sensible to assume that more than 50 percent of votes would be represented at the AGM, above the usual 30-40 percent. (Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Catherine Evans)