Arguably the most (in)famous activist investor stalking the market, Carl Icahn, today disclosed in a regulatory filing that he has acquired more shares of troubled tech veteran Xerox (NYSE:XRX). According to the document, Icahn now holds just over 8% of the company, up roughly one percentage point from the stake he disclosed this past November. All told, Icahn -- through various investment vehicles -- holds over 83 million shares. He remains the second-largest shareholder in the company. In disclosing the original stake last month, a regulatory filing stated that Icahn and his cohorts believed the shares to be undervalued. They also "intend[ed] to have discussions with representatives of the Issuer's management and board of directors relating to improving operational performance and pursuing strategic alternatives, as well as the possibility of board representation."
Does it matter?
Gaining an anchor stake, pushing for strategic changes and an impossible-to-ignore presence on the board, buying more shares to shore up a position -- this is classic Icahn. To its credit, Xerox doesn't appear to be spoiling for an energy-sapping fight. After his November disclosure, a company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that it was "committed to improving performance and creating value for shareholders and will continue to take the actions to advance these objectives." This came shortly after the company posted its first quarterly loss since 2010.
Xerox is struggling with the transition from its legacy office equipment business to a more service-oriented enterprise. This is tough and painful, and that loss and previous estimate misses have made it a bit of a dog for the market. So far this year, its share price has declined by nearly 30%.
Icahn has a mixed record in his investments. A current effort aimed at splitting insurance giant AIG (NYSE:AIG) into three companies hasn't made much headway. Similarly to Xerox, AIG is coming off an awful quarter and probably has many unhappy stockholders. Icahn claims that he has "heard from several large shareholders who are frustrated with the lack of clear progress and are supportive of an AIG breakup." Despite this charge-the-gates rhetoric, though, there isn't a big chorus of investor voices rising to show this support.
Xerox is changing and will continue to morph into a modern company no matter how hard Icahn pushes. This time, his and the target company's goals seem more or less aligned. If anything, his efforts will speed up Xerox's corporate transformation; they probably won't derail it.