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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
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

Client Services Executive / Account Executive - SW London

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Executive / Client Services ...

PA to CEO / Executive Secretary

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Executive PA to CEO & Executive Dire...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Management Accountant

£30-35k + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Management Accoun...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis