No one is safe from the rise of activist investors

Run for your lives. If you are the boss of a UK company, there is a strong chance that activist investors have you in their sights. Hardly a day goes by it seems without hedge funds laying siege to another sleepy corporate.

In the UK, FirstGroup is the latest to come under pressure. Canadian outfit West Face wants the bus and train operator to re-energise its somewhat overlooked US operations. Mining giant BHP Billiton, Premier Foods, fashion chain French Connection and Edinburgh oil explorer Bowleven are just some of the other UK companies currently facing calls for a shake-up.

There were 342 campaigns outside the US last year, compared with 70 in 2010. Scores more are expected. Yet despite the proliferation of activist investors, there is still a sense that boardrooms are failing to take the threat seriously. Many think they are impervious to assault.

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