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Battlin' Over Amylin

Wednesday, 6 May 2009 | 11:07 AM ET
Amylin
CNBC.com
Amylin

You gotta love a good proxy fight, especially when you have one of the kings of shareholder activism, Carl Icahn, in the ring. And lately, I've been getting bombarded by emails from representatives of all corners.

Yesterday I wrote about the timing of the back-to-back press releasesout of Amylin Pharmaceuticals. The first one announced a significant sales force cut and the second one heralded the earlier-than-expected filing for FDA approval of the once-a-week diabetes drug Byetta. Eli Lillyand Alkermes are partners with AMLN on the long-acting tummy injection. Tuesday afternoon on CNBC's "Street Signs,"LLY's Chairman and CEO John Lechleiter told David Faber he expects the FDA to take about a year to review the application.

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Icahn and another big investor, Eastbourne Capital Management, which owns 12.5 percent of AMLN, are campaigning to get their people on the company's Board of Directors. The annual shareholder meeting is at the end of this month. Icahn filed a proxy statementwith the SEC today. But Eastbourne almost simultaneously postedan even juicier addition to its proxy materials. The group cites the 75 percent drop in AMLN shares over the past couple of years and claims that's the third-worst performance among the 20 companies in the AMEX Biotech Index since August 2007.

In the document Eastbourne's Founder and Portfolio Manager, Rick Barry, labels the current board "incapable" and he also questions the confluence of this week's Amylin announcements. "It is not surprising to us that Amylin has been able to advance its timetable and submit a New Drug Application for (Byetta) Once-Weekly as we approach this year's annual meeting....We are also struck by the timing of the apparent realization by Amylin's management, reflected in the company's just announced 'New Sales Approach,' that the company's cost structure needs to be addressed...."

Amylin, in addition to the two announcements this week, has been making its case to shareholders.

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The AMLN shareholder meeting is May 27th. Looks like it could be a barnburner.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman

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