ML Laboratories hit by shareholder revolt

Rebel shareholders in ML Laboratories, the struggling biotech company, are mounting a boardroom coup to have the executive chairman and other non-executive directors removed.

The company, whose research includes treatments for respiratory illnesses, issued a statement yesterday confirming that "a number of parties" were putting together a formal demand for "one or more" of ML's board to step down and be replaced by an external candidate.

Dissident shareholders are frustrated by the lack of progress in the company since it ran out of capital early last year and was forced to raise more than £14m in an emergency rights issue. Stuart Sim has been the executive chairman of ML since 2002, when Kevin Leech quit the company. He provided initial funding for the company but the serial entrepreneur was separately declared bankrupt.

David Kirch, a Jersey-based property investor, is believed to be leading the shareholder assault. He has been building a stake in ML and owns nearly 12 per cent of the company.

Mr Kirch declined to comment on the situation, but one significant shareholder said: "Following the fund-raising last year, shareholders want change. Many are not very happy with the board and believe a new team would reinvigorate the business."

Another shareholder said: "There is huge dissatisfaction with this company in the City. There has been very little action to improve its performance."

ML announced last month its losses had widened to £9m for the year, from a loss of £2.6m in 2003. Its shares have declined in the past four years, from highs of 124p to lows of 9p. Yesterday they closed up 0.25p at 19.5p.

City institutions such as Henderson, Gartmore and Hermes have sold out of their ML shareholdings in recent months. They are believed to have lost faith in the company's prospects and its management. Mr Sim has pledged to make the company profitable by the end of the year.

But shareholders are understood to be disgruntled with Mr Sim's pay package. He earned nearly £400,000 in 2003 when the company made a loss. Details of his salary for 2004 will be revealed imminently, when ML's latest annual report is published. ML said it had not received a formal written proposal from shareholders. The rebels are likely to request an extraordinary meeting to demand the directors step down.

The company, which is developing products such as treatments to reduce complications after surgery and drugs for kidney problems and various cancers, was one of the UK's worst-performing biotech companies. One of its more promising product developments is an inhaler which aims to administerdrugs more efficiently. It has licensed several to pharmaceutical companies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living