Exclusive-Icahn poised to win at least one seat on Illumina’s board -sources

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Greg Roumeliotis

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Activist investor Carl Icahn is set to win enough Illumina Inc shareholder support to install at least one of his three nominees to the gene sequencing machine maker’s board, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

A preliminary vote tally shows that Icahn nominee Andrew Teno has won enough shareholder support to get on Illumina’s board, the sources said.

The sources added that the tally has not been finalised and Illumina shareholders can change their votes until the company’s annual shareholder meeting starts on Thursday.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Icahn and Illumina spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Icahn’s challenge against Illumina, whose market value of $33 billion makes it this year’s biggest board fight, offers the 87-year-old corporate raider a chance to reassert his investment acumen.

This month, he faced his own investor challenge after short seller Hindenburg Research issued a report saying his investment firm Icahn Enterprises LP artificially inflated its dividend yield and the value of its assets.

Icahn, who owns 1.4% of Illumina, put forward three director candidates, a move that could result in the ouster of Chief Executive Officer Francis deSouza and Chairman John Thompson from Illumina’s nine-member board.

The investor has accused Illumina’s board of poor oversight, especially with regards to the company’s $7.1 billion acquisition of cancer test maker Grail.

Illumina completed the deal despite opposition from U.S. and European antitrust regulators, who are now trying to force it to unwind it. Icahn has blamed the Grail deal for Illumina losing $50 billion in market value.

Earlier this month, proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended Illumina shareholders back Teno, arguing he would be an adequate replacement for Thompson.

Two days earlier, proxy adviser Glass Lewis said Illumina shareholders should vote for two of Carl Icahn’s nominees to replace deSouza and Thompson.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Paritosh Bansal and Christopher Cushing)