Icahn says Herbalife is undervalued, business can create jobs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Carl Icahn, the activist investor who owns over $1.2 billion worth of Herbalife HLF.N shares, said the stock is cheap, especially now that the cloud of a government investigation has lifted, and that the company will create a lot of jobs.

Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York, U.S. on February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

“It is undervalued,” Icahn, the largest shareholder of the nutrition and diet company said about Herbalife on Wednesday at the Reuters Global Investment Outlook in New York. “I like the company, I like the model.”

“It is going to create a lot of jobs,” he said, declining to say where he thinks the stock price should be trading.

The company is in better shape now, Icahn said, after it agreed to restructure its business and to pay $200 million to the Federal Trade Commission in July.

“They were under pressure with the FTC but now they are out of that,” Icahn said in a wide-ranging interview. The business in China is a big plus, Icahn said, adding that rival activist investor William Ackman’s $1 billion short bet is looking increasingly risky.

Icahn and Ackman have been battling over the future of Herbalife for nearly four years with Ackman having publicly called the company a pyramid scheme and putting on the $1 billion short bet in 2012.

Herbalife repeatedly denied the allegations and the fact that the FTC did not explicitly call it a pyramid scheme suggested to some that the government believes the company’s business model is sound. Other government agencies have also been looking at Herbalife, regulatory filings show.

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Icahn said in September that he wanted to seek permission to buy an even bigger chunk of the company.

Herbalife ended trading 0.1 percent higher at $52.15 on Wednesday and has fallen 2.8 percent since January.

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Editing by Meredith Mazzilli