Icahn Enterprises LP, a publicly-traded chunk of investor Carl Icahn's industrial-retail-gambling-property empire, has lost half its stock market value since last February. Standard & Poor's last week warned it is likely to cut Icahn's debt rating to junk levels in the next three months, unless Icahn, who owns nearly 90% of the stock and keeps its dividend high to enrich himself and smaller investors, pumps more cash into his company.
While pressing for change at Apple, AIG and other big companies, Icahn bought all of Philadelphia-based Pep Boys, the auto repair chain, for $1 billion, and took the company private earlier this winter, delisting its shares from the New York Stock Exchange on Feb. 4. Pep Boys employs 500 at its Allegheny Ave. headquarters and operates 800 stores and garages in more than 30 states.
In threatening junk-bond status, which could leave Icahn debt off-limits to many investors and force Icahn to pay more to borrow money, S&P analyst Clayton Montgomery cited "significant deterioration" in Icahn's energy-extraction investments (Chesapeake, Cheniere) and mining stocks (Freeport-McMoRan), which have contributed to Icahn's investment losses of $1.4 billion since September.
Icahn's companies are selling assets and raising cash -- including, most recently, $1.8 billion worth of wireless spectrum, to Verizon -- but analyst Montgomery expects Icahn Enterprises will just plow its share of any sale proceeds into more asset purchases, instead of repaying the nearly $1.2 billion in senior unsecured notes due next January; he expects Icahn will refinance, continue to pour out dividends, and keep its debt load high, even as stock prices and corporate profits remain weak,
"When things get cheap, we tend to be buyers," affirmed Icahn Enterprises CEO Keith Cozza in the company's last quarterly meeting with investors, after the third quarter of 2015.
At the time he said Icahn's CVR Energy (refining), Rentech Nitrogen Partners (fertilizer), Tropicana (casinos) and other investments were doing well and the company had "ample liquidity," including more than $6 billion at the holding company level and nearly $2 billion at subsidiaries.
Montgomery estimated Icahn Enterprises cash at Sept. 30 at less than $200 milllion, down from $1.1 billion a year earlier.
"The dividend is important to them," Cozza added, referring to Icahn and other shareholders, at the November meeting. "We think it's very sustainable."
Icahn Associates Corp., Icahn's broader investment company, owned the following as its largest publicly-traded holdings as of late last year, according to Bloomberg
- Icahn Enterprises, $7.2 billion. Icahn has recently bought more of the stock
- Apple Inc., $4.8 billion. Icahn has recently been a seller.
- CVR Energy, $2.8 billion, no recent change
- American International Group, $2.6 billion, buyer
- Paypal Holdings Inc., $1.7 billion, buyer
- Cheniere Energy Inc., $1.2 billion, buyer
- Nuance Communciations Inc., $1.2 billion, buyer
- FederalMogul Holdings Corp., $950 million, n/c
- Xerox Corp., $920 million, buyer
Icahn had lately sold large parts of its former positions in Tegna Inc. and Gannett Co. and had been accumulating Pep Boys at the time of the Bloomberg report.
Icahn Enterprises is scheduled to report its full-year 2015 results on Feb. 29.