Netflix. Icahn had also made news late last year by taking a large position in Netflix, and he reported owning 5.5 million shares of the stock at the end of December. Billionaire Eddie Lampert’s ESL Investments has also been buying shares of Netflix (see Lampert's stock picks). 18% of the outstanding shares are held short, and the forward P/E- which is based on expectations that Netflix’s business is fairly stable and will be able to grow its earnings over the next couple years- is 68. The highly volatile stock has been on the upswing overall in the last year, up 54%. Netflix faces severe challenges due to content costs and is also investing in overseas expansion, and as a result its bottom line has suffered even as the company has been successful in adding subscribers. Revenue was actually up 8% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in the previous year.
Dumping Oshkosh. This one wasn’t quite news either: Icahn failed in an activist campaign to gain more power of Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK)’s Board of Directors through a tender offer, and reported no shares on his 13F. Oshkosh is a $3.5 billion market cap manufactures vehicles and vehicle bodies, generally for industrial, military, or public service functions. While the activist battle is over, in terms of valuation metrics Oshkosh actually looks cheap as is: it carries trailing and forward P/Es of 15 and 12, respectively, and earnings were up last quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.
We’d consider Netflix just too speculative and volatile to take any position on right now. Oshkosh, Transocean, and even Chesapeake meanwhile at least have potential as value stocks (we’d take Icahn’s sales of Oshkosh as an acceptance that he will not have influence over the Board, rather than him actually being bearish on the stock). Natural gas prices are certainly challenging for Chesapeake, and Transocean may be dependent on high oil prices as well, but we think they are still worth considering.
Disclosure: I own no shares of any stocks mentioned in this article.