Biogen Idec Inc officials called a three-hour recess in their annual meeting on Wednesday, a move activist investor Carl Icahn blasted as an effort to hijack the shareholder voting.

Shareholders in the biotechnology company are voting on several Icahn-backed proposals, including a slate of four dissident directors. Icahn, who owns a 5.6 stake in the company, wants the board to consider splitting it in two.

This is not North Korea, Alexander Denner, managing director of Icahn Partners, called out after Biogen Chairman Bruce Ross paused the meeting, saying that not all shareholders had had an opportunity to vote.

This is the second year in a row that Icahn has mounted a proxy campaign against the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company. Last year he wanted to sell the company, but now he is calling for its board to consider dividing it.

He argues that Biogen would do better as two separate businesses, one focused on neurology and another targeting cancer treatments.

Shareholders should demand that this board finally act in their interest instead of just attempting to re-elect themselves, Icahn, who has not appeared at the meeting, said in a statement. Do not let them get away with hijacking the election.

Icahn representatives said the move suggested they may have enough votes to carry the day.

Ross called the break two hours into the meeting of about 100 shareholders after a lengthy talk by Biogen's chief scientist on the company's research efforts.

He said the recess would last until 2 p.m. EDT.

Last year Icahn's slate was voted down by a ratio of 75 to 25.

Biogen shares were up 3.9 percent, or $2.05, at $54.37 on the Nasdaq.


Icahn's representatives at the meeting called repeatedly for their proposals -- which also include fixing the number of directors at 13 and reincorporating in North Dakota -- to be voted upon.

Our objective really is to bring this to be the next Genentech, if you will, to bring it to the next level in terms of market cap, in terms of its reach within the biotech industry, in terms of the respect it gets in the biotech industry, Denner said before the meeting was recessed. It should be a larger company and I think it can be over time.

Genentech last year was acquired by Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG in a $46.8 billion deal.

The results of the company speak for itself, its ability to generate earnings and cash flow, its ability to do so with a real consistency, Director Brian Posner said, as part of Biogen's response to Denner.

While some shareholders called on the company to listen to Icahn, others cautioned against taking his advice.

I saw what he did to TWA ... If he would do the same thing to this company, you wouldn't want him involved in this company, said Ray Rogers, a shareholder and labor activist.

Icahn bought that now-defunct U.S. airline in the late 1980s and ran a restructuring campaign that included cutting wages and selling assets.

Proxy advisory firms Proxy Governance Inc and Glass, Lewis & Co had both advised shareholders to vote against the Icahn slate. A third firm, RiskMetrics, recommended against the company slate.

Icahn last year engineered the $6.5 billion sale of biotechnology company ImClone Systems to Eli Lilly & Co .

(Reporting by Scott Malone, Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Gerald E. McCormick)