Actelion Shareholder Battle Heats Up Ahead of AGM

Actelion shareholder Elliott Advisors, having already called for a management overhaul at the Swiss biotech concern, says all options, including a sale of the company, need to be on the table at Actelion's shareholder meeting in May.

Faced with a number of drug development setbacks and amid concerns over Actelion's pipeline once it loses patent protection of its blockbuster drug Tracleer, Elliott Advisors has put forward a new chairman for the group and is rallying support ahead of the May 5 AGM.

"The company overall has been unsuccessful in building a sustainable business around Tracleer and trying to diversify the product portfolio, such that the risk for shareholders at the time of the Tracleer patent expiry is minimized," James Shannon, Elliott Advisors' proposed chairman for Actelion told CNBC on Tuesday.

Shannon said the company had not managed bring new products through to the market, with Tracleer the only exception. Partnerships or acquisition of products had not been successful either, he said.

"Right now, the board of Actelion have said that their strategy is completely dependent on waiting and seeing what the next product will bring," he said, adding the company was pinning all its hopes on a new product.

The current board has said that a sale of the company is not to be discussed and has excluded other options, Shannon said.

"What we have said is that all options need to be on the table...that if an acquirer were to come along that should be considered," he said, adding he was not personally convinced that a near-term sale was the right option.

The product portfolio needed to be diversified before 2015, he said. Tracleer's patent expires in 2015.

"We will see a diminution of shareholder value going forward unless the company does something else," Shannon said, adding: "I would have expected the Actelion board to have looked at the fundamental reasons for the R&D failures over the last ten years.

Elliott Advisors holds just over six percent in Actelion.