Carl Icahn Doubles Down on Herbalife Bet

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Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) has been more than a controversial stock over the past three years or more. Short seller and activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management had roughly a $1 billion bet against this company and has been a vocal challenger, calling Herbalife a pyramid scheme. But this has not been without contest. Carl Icahn has seen Ackman’s bet and is continuing to raise the stakes.

Following the company’s most recent earnings report, shareholders were less than enthused about the stock. And as a result, shares were sent to a two-month low. The fourth-quarter results were more than enough for investors, but guidance for the first quarter was relatively weak.

Barron’s reported early on Monday that Icahn Enterprises L.P. (NASDAQ: IEP) announced it had increased its stake in Herbalife to 24.57% from its previous level of 24.18%. Although this might not seem like a big move, that chunk of stock (372,324 shares) cost roughly $19 million.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is allowing Icahn to acquire up to a 50% stake in Herbalife. Previously, the FTC had allowed Icahn a 35% stake, back in July 2016, when the agency abandoned its “witch hunt” against Herbalife.

At the time, Herbalife treated this as a victory over Ackman after he had released multiple videos that were meant to show the company’s practices were deceptive (or worse). Herbalife’s public posturing of the settlement is that this does not change Herbalife’s business model as a direct selling company.

Shares of Herbalife were trading up 2.4% at $53.50 on Monday, with a consensus analyst price target of $74.00 and a 52-week trading range of $47.62 to $72.22.

IEP was trading at $52.73. The 52-week range is $45.42 to $66.92, and the consensus price target is $50.50.