Navistar deadline highlights investor Icahn’s truck stake

WARRENVILLE, Ill., Billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s big bet on the U.S. heavy-truck industry remains in the spotlight as the deadline nears for investors at Navistar International Corp to nominate new members for the board of directors.

Navistar’s deadline — set for Nov. 15 — comes about a month following Icahn’s purchase of a nearly 10 percent stake in the truck and engine maker.

Navistar has had discussions with Icahn in recent weeks. The company extended its board nomination deadline by about a month after Icahn first publicly disclosed his investment. He expressed a desire for potential board seats in that Oct. 13 disclosure.

Icahn’s interest in Navistar has received increased interest given the similar stake he holds in rival Oshkosh Corp. Last week, Icahn nominated six of his associates for Oshkosh’s board, heightening speculation that he is hatching a plan to merge that company with Navistar.

The two companies have a combined market value of about $5 billion. Navistar is the bigger of the two, with its market capitalization equaling about $3 billion.

Icahn did not immediately respond to requests for comment on his Navistar stake on Friday. He did not update his intentions for Oshkosh when he nominated directors to its board on Nov. 4.

“Navistar’s board and management team are committed to acting in the best interests of the company and our stockholders,” spokesman Jim Spangler said. “We remain focused on executing our strategy.”

Navistar — known mostly for its sales of heavy trucks and big engines in the U.S. — has grown into a more international and diverse player under Chief Executive Daniel Ustian’s leadership in recent years. Like Oshkosh, Navistar now derives a significant part of its revenue and profits from defense contracts, which have served to offset weakness at other key customers, such as municipalities and owners of smaller truck fleets.

Still, Navistar’s primary business remains the sales of heavier trucks to civilian and municipal operators, and the sale of engines to a variety of customers.

Icahn’s investments in Navistar and Oshkosh are worth nearly $500 million. Shares of Navistar and Oshkosh have fallen more than 40 percent off 52-week highs of $71.49 and $40.11 respectively. Oshkosh’s stock, trading at $22.16, has risen more than 10 percent since Icahn proposed his slate of directors.