Consumer Products

Can Carl Icahn Force Manitowoc to Concede to Activist Pressure?

The year is almost over and Carl Icahn is still making his activist investor moves. His most recent acquisition was a 7.77% stake in Manitowoc Co. Inc. (NYSE: MTW). This totaled at 10.53 million shares for a total purchase price of $146.6 million. Note that Manitowoc has previously been the target of other activist investors.

A little background on Manitowoc: It is a capital goods manufacturer that owns and operates over 100 manufacturing, distribution and service facilities in 24 countries. It has two major operating segments, a Crane segment and a Foodservice segment. Icahn sees the company as undervalued and that a split between its two segments could realize this value.

Apart from looking to realize this value, Icahn may also seek to gain some shareholder and board representation.

Manitowoc has previously indicated that it believes that the combination of the less cyclical Foodservice business is needed to balance the inherent cyclicality of the Crane segment. However, another activist in Manitowoc, Relational Investors, believes that the combination of the Foodservice and Crane segments causes the stock to trade at a perpetual discount. The firm sees Manitowoc continuing to trade at a discount due to widely divergent business characteristics and a lack of meaningful synergies between its segments.

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According to the Icahn filing, the purpose of the transaction was:

The Reporting Persons acquired their positions in the Shares in the belief that they were undervalued. The Reporting Persons intend to have discussions with representatives of the Issuer’s management and board of directors relating to separating the Issuer’s Crane and Foodservice segments into two separate companies. The Reporting Persons may also seek shareholder board representation if appropriate. As of December 28, 2014, the Reporting Persons have had no discussions with representatives of the Issuer’s management or board of directors.

The Reporting Persons may, from time to time and at any time: (i) acquire additional Shares and/or other equity, debt, notes, instruments or other securities (collectively, “Securities”) of the Issuer (or its affiliates) in the open market or otherwise; (ii) dispose of any or all of their Securities in the open market or otherwise; or (iii) engage in any hedging or similar transactions with respect to the Securities.

In short, Icahn wants to break up the company, and he may take a larger stake. The SEC filing also indicated that Icahn had bought call options and sold put options. Manitowoc is not as common of a name as other recent Icahn targets, and the $3 billion market cap is going to keep this pressure perhaps a bit less public than other high-profile activist targets.

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Manitowoc’s stock has a 52-week trading range of $16.24 to $33.50, having seen its high this past summer. Since that time, shares have fallen more than 32% to current prices. This was precipitated by weak second- and third-quarter earnings.

Shares of Manitowoc were up over 8% at $22.66 in the first two hours of trading Monday. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $24.17, and the company has a market cap of $3 billion.

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