Icahn says fight for PayPal spinoff just getting started

Fri Mar 7, 2014 9:26am IST

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

Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York February 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid/Files

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REUTERS - Activist investor Carl Icahn told eBay Inc(EBAY.O) shareholders in a letter on Thursday he has "not yet begun to fight" to get the e-commerce company to spin off its PayPal payments unit.

Icahn, who owns just over 2 percent of eBay, also used the letter to lay out new arguments for the split.

He has sparred with eBay management via open letters and press releases since January, when eBay said the pugnacious billionaire had made an unsolicited proposal for eBay to hive off PayPal and nominated two directors to the eBay board.

In his latest missive, Icahn said a spinoff "could allow two separate management teams to focus more closely on the core businesses" and could also "provide a more compelling currency to attract top talent to the respective companies."

He also said an independent PayPal would find it easier to land strategic partnerships with companies that compete with eBay. EBay has repeatedly said that eBay and PayPal are better off together.

Icahn disputed claims made this week by eBay chief executive John Donahoe that most big shareholders agreed with management that PayPal should remain with eBay.

Icahn, who has accused two eBay directors of having conflicts of interest, said he was "encouraged" by an investor survey that showed more than half of investors believe the composition of the eBay board should change.

The results of the survey, published Wednesday by Bernstein Research, found 43 percent agree splitting off eBay is a good idea, Icahn said.

"I find the Bernstein data points astounding in light of the fact that we have not yet even begun to formally reach out to our fellow eBay stockholders to make our case," he said.

EBay in a statement dismissed Icahn's claims about the survey results as "interesting sound bites" and said its direct conversations with shareholders were "more meaningful and credible."

EBay shares were up 1 percent to $59.48 in afternoon trading.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown)

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