Icahn looking to buy hunk of Transocean drilling firm

  • Article by: HARRY R. WEBER , Houston Chronicle
  • Updated: January 14, 2013 - 8:29 PM

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn may want to increase his stake in Transocean to more than 3 percent, amid a surge in the Swiss offshore drilling contractor's stock price after news that it had reached a deal to resolve much of its federal liability over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

A Transocean statement issued Sunday said Icahn has purchased a 1.56 percent stake in the company and has informed it that he may want to acquire more shares.

Analyst Joe Hill at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. speculated that Icahn's move may be part of an effort to force the creation of a master limited partnership, a business structure that is taxed as a partnership but whose ownership interests are publicly traded. Such offerings have been commonly available to investors in oil and gas projects. They can attract a lot of private investment, and Hill said they can spur a high rate of return.

The stock, after rising for most of the day Monday, closed at $53.93, down 16 cents.

Transocean said Icahn has notified the company he is seeking approval potentially to acquire voting securities of Transocean in an amount exceeding $682.1 million -- a nearly 3.5 percent stake.

"He believes putting pressure on management and the board could force their hand to take some measure to boost the stock price," Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit said.

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