With the Melrose bid for GKN almost complete, our old friends Elliott are back in the news again, this time targeting Whitbread, where it looks like they will be pushing for Costa to be spun off. Cue lots of headlines, many of them identifying Elliott's stake making it Whitbread's "largest shareholder".
Well, now, you see, actually, err.... no.
If you read Elliott's statement carefully, that's not quite what they say. What they actually say is that they have "an economic interest in excess of 6% of the Company". They do not say they hold 6% of Whitbread shares.
There's a very good reason for this - they actually hold 0.01% of Whitbread shares. Here is the RNS statement that shows that they hold just 18,707 shares, but they also have a load of CFDs. Notably Elliott has secured voting rights, so in practice they are going to have real power.
But they are not Whitbread's largest shareholder or anything close to it. And we are doing Elliott's PR work for them if we erroneously describe them as such.
PS - Jim Moore has a good piece on the way that passive institutions allow firms like Elliott to do their thing.