Elliott discloses stake in Cognizant, urges board shakeup

November 28, 2016 9:23 AM EST

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(Reuters) - Activist investor Elliott Management disclosed a stake of more than 4 percent in Cognizant Technology Solutions (NASDAQ: CTSH) and urged the IT services provider in a letter to consider shaking up its board as one of several steps to boost shareholder value.

Cognizant said it had an "introductory discussion" with Elliott after receiving the letter on Monday morning.

"The company intends to review the letter carefully and will respond in due course," Cognizant said.

Shares of Cognizant, which disclosed in September that it was investigating possible violations of U.S. anti-corruption laws, were up 7 percent at $56.95 in late afternoon trading. Up to Friday's close, the stock had fallen 11 percent this year.

"We believe that Cognizant can achieve a value of $80–$90+ per share by the end of 2017, representing upside of 50-69 percent in just over a year," Elliott Senior Portfolio Manager Jesse Cohn said in the letter to Cognizant's board.

Elliott has led several successful campaigns to squeeze value out of companies it considers to be undervalued.

Qlik Technologies, Riverbed, Informatica and Compuware sold themselves to private equity firms after Elliott invested.

Elliott said Teaneck, New Jersey-based Cognizant should consider a $2.5 billion share buyback, acquisitions and initiate a dividend, among other measures to boost its shares.

The hedge fund also sought changes to Cognizant's board, saying that more than half of the company's directors had been in their position for at least nine years.

"... Given the sustained share price underperformance at Cognizant, we believe directors with new experiences, skills and perspectives would be welcome," Elliott said.

The hedge fund had succeeded in pushing U.S. identity theft protection services company LifeLock Inc (NYSE: LOCK) to sell itself. Antivirus software maker Symantec Corp (NASDAQ: SYMC) said last week that it would buy LifeLock for $2.3 billion.

Mentor Graphics Corp (NASDAQ: MENT), which recently agreed to be bought by German engineering group Siemens AG , was also under pressure from Elliott after the fund reported an 8.1 percent stake in Mentor in September and said its shares were deeply undervalued.

Cognizant said earlier this month that some senior managers may have participated in or failed to take action to prevent making "potentially improper payments".

The disclosure hit the company's shares but they have since recouped most of the losses.

(Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee and Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Ted Kerr and Maju Samuel)



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