(Reuters) - The controversy surrounding Herbalife Ltd (HLF.N) should not prevent a willing buyer for the company from being able to finance a takeover, billionaire investor Carl Icahn told CNBC television on Friday.
Icahn declined to comment on whether his firm, Icahn Enterprises LP (IEP.O), would launch a tender offer for shares of the weight-loss products company, a day after revealing a 13 percent ownership stake and a desire to explore strategic options for Herbalife.
The famed corporate raider did say that financing a takeover would not be a problem.
“I think we would definitely get capital if we needed it,” Icahn told the business news station. “You can imagine I’ve had calls from a number of investment bankers and people with capital. We have capital ourselves.”
Icahn has positioned himself against rival investor Bill Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management has called Herbalife a pyramid scheme and said he expects the share price to go to zero.
Icahn said he did not think a private equity firm would be needed in a deal for the company. “I don’t think you need a private equity firm for this,” Icahn said.
As Icahn battles Ackman in his view of the future of Herbalife, both men are convinced of their own analysis.
“We invest based on a careful analysis of the facts,” Ackman said in a statement on Friday, adding “After 18 months of due diligence, we have concluded that it is a certainty that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme.” He also said that investors like Carl Icahn are helping his firm shine a light on Herbalife.
Icahn had been rumored for weeks to have a position in Herbalife and made it public in a regulatory filing on Thursday when he said he started buying Herbalife on December 20, the day that Ackman spent three hours making his short bet public.
According to the filing, Icahn now owns 2.47 million shares Herbalife and has options on another 11.54 million shares.
Herbalife shares were up 5.7 percent to $40.47 in Friday afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Reporting By Martinne Geller and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Tim Dobbyn