An analyst who was able to sniff out big moves by Carl Icahn to purchase a stake in HP along with Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway’s backing of Occidental Petroleum says there could be a big player making a move to acquire streaming giant Netflix.
Gordon Haskett’s head of event-driven research, Don Bilson, said Nomura Holdings picked up about 1.89 million shares of Netflix during the third quarter and may have done it on behalf of an activist investor. Bilson was the one who figured out that Nomura helped Icahn get into HP through a simple options trade.
According to FactSet, Nomura holds about 0.44% of Netflix’s shares, which total about 4.3% of the company’s total portfolio. Bilson said he doesn’t know exactly who might be buying but he has two top suspects, the first of which is Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital, who mentioned recently he is building a new position in the company.
“It’s the pattern. This fits the model for building top-notch stock holdings that have undergone a price dislocation. It’s not necessarily an activist play. It’s buying the best,” Bilson told CNBC. “What he has done a lot of recently is to not take swings at things that are real hairy or dangerous.”
A spokesman for Pershing declined to comment “on speculation of that kind,” CNBC said.
Icahn is the second possibility.
“He made a bazillion dollars in this thing. He’s been there,” Bilson said, noting that Icahn has previously reported buying Netflix and then selling at a big profit. Icahn wasn’t available to comment, CNBC said.
“The comments from the activist community is there’s nothing to do with Netflix. The respect (Netflix CEO) Reed Hastings has within that community is sky high. Nobody’s going in there to push Reed Hastings around and tell him what to do. This is not an activist position, but it’s a smart investment,” Bilson said. “It’s a great company with good management.”
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), trading at $294.76 shortly after 3 p.m. EDT Friday, up about 1.8% for the day, also had not commented at the time the CNBC story was published.
Icahn said this week he’s holding a 4% stake in HP and he has pushed Xerox to make a bid for the printer company, according to CNBC. Icahn has an 11% stake in Xerox.
“We were confident it was an activist and any simple exercise of connecting the dots would have put that together,” Bilson said. “We definitely mentioned that on Oct. 2 and then after the Journal had the story that Xerox had made this approach, we teed it up again and we said we thought he was on both sides of the trade.”
Bilson figured out that Buffett was investing in Occidental after he found out the company’s corporate jet had landed in Omaha, Nebraska, the hometown of Buffett, who is known as the “Oracle of Omaha.”