| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 14 E-commerce auction house eBay
Inc became a darling among top U.S. hedge funds in the
fourth quarter just before billionaire activist investor Carl
Icahn urged the company to spin off its PayPal payments
business, regulatory filings showed on Friday.
Farallon Capital Management took a new stake of 3,295,000
shares in the online auction house and Leon Cooperman's Omega
Advisors also took a new stake of 854,800 shares ahead of
Icahn's proposal, which the company rejected.
The enthusiasm for eBay further spotlights the company after
it announced on January 22 that Icahn had taken a 0.82 percent
stake earlier that month. Icahn, chairman of Icahn Enterprises
L.P., is known for taking large stakes in companies and
pushing for management change.
Icahn's latest quarterly disclosures appeared to confirm
eBay's timeline, since they did not show a stake in the company
as of December 31, 2013.
Reuters reported a day after eBay announced Icahn's stake
that the activist investor had taken a larger stake of close to
2 percent, according to a source.
The confidence in eBay's shares suggests that key investors
see further gains. The company's stock price rose 7.6 percent in
2013 and is up 7.4 percent so far this year. The stock price
jumped as much as 12 percent after it reported
better-than-expected earnings and Icahn's stake on January 22.
Not all hedge funds showed their love for eBay in the fourth
quarter. Eric Mindich's Eton Park Capital Management cut its
position in the company by more than 2 million shares in the
fourth quarter, still leaving the stake at a sizeable 2.4
million shares, according to the regulatory filings with the
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, known as 13Fs.
Ebay was not the only stock that Icahn and others agreed on
in the fourth quarter. Icahn, who announced a "large position"
in Apple Inc via Twitter in mid-August, found kindred spirits in
activist investor Daniel Loeb and Blue Ridge, both of whom
opened new positions in the company.
Loeb's Third Point hedge fund took a stake of 100,000 shares
in Apple, while Blue Ridge took a new position of 320,000
shares. David Tepper's Appaloosa Management was an exception,
cutting its stake by 12 percent to 215,320 shares.
For his part, Icahn's stake of 4.7 million shares at the end
of December showed that he did not buy any shares of the company
between October 24 and the end of last year.
In a letter to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook made public on
October 24, Icahn revealed that he owned 4,730,739 shares in the
company as of that morning, the same amount disclosed in the
regulatory filing for the period ended December 31.
In late January, however, Icahn tweeted that he had bought
another half-billion dollars of Apple stock, boosting the value
of his stake in the company to more than $4 billion.
Icahn waged a public campaign to get Apple to return more
cash to shareholders but said earlier this week in a letter to
shareholders that he was ditching his non-binding proposal to
force Apple to add another $50 billion to its stock buyback
He cited the company's recent repurchases as well as
influential proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder
Services Inc's call against his proposal.
Icahn's latest regulatory filings also showed that he owned
60.8 million shares of Nuance Communications, marking a
15.9 percent increase from his stake in the third quarter.
Nuance makes the software that runs the Siri feature on Apple's
Icahn did not show a stake in car rental company Hertz
Global Holdings Inc in his fourth-quarter regulatory
filings. CNBC television reported on January 3 that the investor
had acquired between 30 million and 40 million shares in the
company, which sent its shares up about 1.7 percent.
(Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)