Icahn Heeds Netflix’s Hastings Warning: Sells 3 Million Shares

Paul Ausick
October 22, 2013

We noted Tuesday morning that activist investor Carl Icahn could be considering a sale of all or part of his stake in Netflix Inc. (NFLX). The streaming/DVD rental firm posting big earnings on Monday night and the stock hit a new all-time high of just under $390 a share.

Icahn’s cost basis for his Netflix shares is $58 a share according to an announcement at the website of Icahn Enterprises LP (IEP). Even with Tuesday’s sale the company still holds about 2.7 million shares in Netflix.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a video conference call, “We have a sense of momentum investors driving up the stock price more than we might normally. There’s not a lot we can do about it. But I wanted to honestly reflect upon that.” A word to the wise, apparently.

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In a statement from Icahn Enterprises, David Schechter and Brett Icahn commented:

Given this opportunity set and the company's management team, which we view as exceedingly competent, we believe Netflix's valuation is still relatively low. In our experience, there are few companies at any given time in history that represent the pure life blood of a colossal secular growth category, and even fewer where the CEO of that company instills deserved confidence among the company's investors by repeatedly exhibiting both vision and the ability to execute on that vision.

Carl Icahn tooted his own horn a little, pointing out that Icahn Enterprises enjoyed a “total return of 457% in only 14 months [and] it is time to take some of the chips off the table. I want to thank Reed Hastings, Ted Sarandos and the rest of the Netflix team for a job well done. And last but not least, I wish to thank Kevin Spacey.”

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Icahn has made his move. Now, what will Netflix do? As we noted earlier, a massive secondary offering, a la Elon Musk and Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), might make investors unhappy, but it would solidify Netflix’s balance sheet for years.

Shares of Netflix lost about $32 on Tuesday, closing at $322.52 and dropping another 2% in after-hours trading.

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