What You Might Not Know About Carl Icahn’s New Stock Pick
Carl Icahn stock picks: In case you’ve been living under a rock this week, Carl Icahn is at it again. In a filing with the SEC and a subsequent tweet on Monday afternoon, the activist disclosed a 5.9% stake in oil and gas producer Talisman Energy Inc. (USA) (NYSE:TLM). While you probably know that the stock has reacted positively to the news, there are a few other circumstances surrounding Icahn and Talisman that you might not know. It’s worth it to follow hedge fund activity (discover its market-beating potential here), so let’s take a look.
1. Former pupil Keith Meister has a large stake
As we originally reported after the transaction, one interesting fact about Icahn’s move into Talisman concerns an old apprentice. Keith Meister, who was Icahn’s right hand man before launching his own hedge fund in 2011, was the largest pre-Icahn Talisman investor of the funds we track. In his last 13F filing, Meister reported a $103.5 million position in the energy company, which was actually built in the second quarter of this year.
It’s too early to tell if Meister and his fund, Corvex, will team up to instigate change at Talisman, but the former pupil has proven himself to be a pesky activist at CommonWealth REIT (NYSE:CWH) and ADT Corp (NYSE:ADT). At both companies, Meister and his hedge fund publicly disclosed lengthy presentations calling for shareholder value stimulation. Corvex hasn’t, however, filed any 13Ds with the SEC indicating an activist stake in Talisman just yet, and the position reported in its last 13F represents 0.9% of the company.
It is interesting to note that in Icahn’s filing, he lists asset sales, restructuring and Board representation as possible outcomes of his Talisman campaign. These are all tactics Keith Meister is undoubtedly familiar with from his two years at Corvex and seven years at Icahn Enterprises.
2. This isn’t Icahn’s first rodeo in the energy sector
Although some of Carl Icahn’s high-profile bets have been on consumer goods companies like Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) and tech giants like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), energy represents the largest portion of his biggest investments. Three of Icahn’s seven largest equity holdings are in the energy sector: CVR Energy, Inc. (NYSE:CVI), Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) and Transocean LTD (NYSE:RIG).
Through his investments in each of these companies, Icahn’s activism has had some level of success. At CVR for example, he profited handsomely on the company’s spinoff of its oil-refining segment, and his fruitful campaign to win a seat on Chesapeake’s board eventually resulted in the departure of CEO Aubrey McClendon in April. Even at Transocean, where shareholders denied Icahn’s dividend proposal, he still grabbed a seat on the drilling company’s board and succeeded in removing former Chairman Michael Talbert from his post.
In fact, shareholders at two of these energy companies have benefited significantly from Icahn’s involvement. Since he first disclosed his Chesapeake stake in the summer of 2012, shares are up 66.2%. CVR Energy’s stock has gained 61% after Icahn filed a 13D in early 2012. Only Transocean, which is down 16.5% since Icahn revealed a position this January, has lost ground.
With that being said, any retail investor who simply followed Icahn’s last three activist bets in the energy sector would be up on the S&P 500 by about seven percentage points in 21 months. We’d guess that now, you’re probably wondering whether or not Icahn’s bet on Talisman is worth imitating.
3. There is value in Talisman’s assets
It’s simply too difficult to predict what effects a potential board shakeup or management restructuring will have on Talisman’s share price. It is easier, however, to measure the potential impact of asset sales.
In a brilliant piece on Forbes earlier this week, it’s discovered that a Bernstein Research report from August points to a lot of hidden value in the oil and gas producer’s assets. Christopher Helman writes, “On a “base” case, they [Bernstein] calculate Talisman’s enterprise value as $18.9 billion,” adding that a more bullish scenario signifies a value “as high as $27.2 billion.” Both figures represent a premium of 4% on the low side and 50% on the high side.
Talisman’s assets include wells in the Marcellus and Eagle Ford shales, and outside the U.S. it has operations in Canada, Columbia, North Africa, the U.K., Norway, the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company was already attempting to sell part or all of its Kurdistan play, which it places a value of $750 million to $1.25 billion on.
Assets in Asia are also reportedly on the table, and Talisman CEO Hal Kvisle went as far as to tell the WSJ, “We are not actively seeking a buyer for the company, but if people were to express interest we would not reject it out of hand." This statement was delivered approximately two weeks ago, so appears Mr. Icahn may have been listening.
If the activist can initiate meaningful buyout talks or asset sales, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Bernstein’s high enterprise value estimates can be reached. Even a value in the middle range of $18.9 billion and $27.2 billion would represent an appreciation of more than 25% from Talisman’s current stock price. Regardless of where your personal valuation falls, there’s clear upside for investors who choose to follow Icahn’s newest bet.
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