Carl Icahn, Founder and Chairman of Icahn Enterprises, told Bloomberg TV that he left Donald Trump's victory party early Wednesday morning to bet about $1 billion on U.S. equities.
"I thought it was absurd that the market, the S&P was down 100 points on Trump getting elected," Icahn said in a phone interview. "I tried to put a lot more to work, but I couldn’t put more than about a billion dollars to work," he said.
Icahn, one of Trump's earliest supporters, spoke to Erik Schatzker this afternoon and weighed in on the market reaction to the U.S. presidential election results and the economic plans of President-Elect Trump. Icahn said Trump's victory was "a positive for our economy, not a negative" but noted that the U.S. economy is not out of the woods just yet.
Courtesy of Bloomberg TV
VONNIE QUINN, BLOOMBERG ANCHOR: Let's go to Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker immediately now with Carl Icahn on the phone.
ERIK SCHATZKER, BLOOMBERG ANCHOR: Vonnie, thank you very much. Carl, great to have you here on Bloomberg Television. You were among Donald Trump's earliest supporters in the financial community. You have been with him consistently through this campaign, through thick and thin, up and down. Help me, if you will, Carl, to put a voice to what we're seeing in the stock market today. The Dow is up 185 points. What is it that investors see here that they didn't in the middle of the night?
CARL ICAHN, CHAIRMAN, ICAHN ENTERPRISES (via telephone): Well, I really think in the middle of the night, it was tremendously overdone. I don't generally trade, and at the risk of being immodest, but I feel good about it. I was at the Trump party, so to speak, about 11:30, quarter to 12, when I saw it, I saw that market fall apart, it made no damn sense, and I actually went home and I made a purchase, probably one of my best investments for -- so I'm just saying it to you not to boast about it, but to make a point, that I do not think that Donald is going to be bad at all for the economy, at all for the market. I think that what happened is an extremely important event in the history of our economy. I've thought that since Trump started out, and I sort of, as you say, been with him, not that actively, but I certainly supported him.
I think the situation really is, in any economy, free enterprise system, you can't have what we went through with Obama with eight years of gridlock, but more importantly, where the perception is that the government is at war with business. And that definitely was the perception. And that is, you know the pundits (inaudible) study, say, what's going on, there's no productivity, there's no productivity -- there's no productivity because business is afraid to invest.
You need regulations, you need regulatory agencies, and in fact, I am a supporter of the Dodd-Frank and I do think you need Wall Street Regulations. But -- and there are good regulatory agencies that have done good things. But there really a terrible perception out there -- you take the EPA. With the EPA is really singlehandedly, for no reason, putting refineries out of business, for no reason at all. I mean, I'm not going to get into this whole riddance (ph) model, but the riddance (ph) model -- the EPA agrees is no good, and yet they just keep doing it. It's almost like the absolute rulers would do in the feudal system.
So therefore you have to have a perception that the government is with you in a huge, free enterprise market like we have. And Trump came along and said, hey, I'm going to change things. So it really isn't that much a surprise that the middle class worker says, I listen to Trump say he's going to make my lot better, he's going to change things, he's going to do something, and I'm listening to Hillary who's basically the same old stuff. Look at Obamacare. Look at the mess that is. You can't really have big government. Big government is good, I would say, to incentivize, but not to tell you how to run your business, but to incentivize and regulate to some extent. And that's why I think this is so good for the market, not terrible.
SCHATZKER: You have been consistent, Carl, in saying that there needs to be a balance between regulation and incentivization. How should, and perhaps will, Donald Trump incentivize business to invest more, to buy more capital goods, to hire more people? Specifically how?
ICAHN (via telephone): OK, well I just started with number one. Number one, cut a lot of this regulation. Just cut it out. It's run amuck, and really clean it up.
SCHATZKER: But beyond energy, are we talking about --
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, yes. Look, the good agencies, there's need for them. I think the FTC has done some real good stuff, and actually, the Dodd-Frank thing, I think you have to regulate Wall Street. But let a businessman know that when he builds a factory, when he builds machinery, when he's going to invest the money, that he's got the government behind him as opposed to coming in with all these regulators -- I mean, even the healthcare business. I mean, the regulations have gotten completely out of hand. And even in education. I was talking to the head of a large college the other day and he says, hey, every time I turn around to do anything, I got all these regulators coming in on me. That's for education.
So you got to stop that. And I think that is a major point. Now what else can you do? And I think there are many things the government can do with some fiscal stimulus. Look at (inaudible) went through. Look at the Marshall plan. Look, everyone thought that, oh, after the war, we're going to have a depression. It turned out the other way, because the government went in and didn't run things. That's the great mistake that you think, oh, we don't want communism and socialism. I'm the last one to want that. But you don't have that. We almost have a touch of that now here. The government shouldn't be running anything. The government shouldn't be going in and deciding, one business should go out of business, as the EPA does in the refineries. They shouldn't be doing that. But they should be going in and helping you in a lot of ways.
Look, I built a rail car business in the mid-80s. You can walk from New York to Ohio on the rail cars I put up, the leverage and all, but the government incentivized you through tax benefits. They incentivized you to build rail cars because they wanted them, and that's why you have a healthy rail car business in the country.
SCHATZKER: So if I hear you clearly, when you say that we could use more fiscal spending, the Trump administration should go out and borrow more? Long-term rates are still pretty low. They've been going up lately, including today, but they should borrow more and use that to grant tax breaks and other incentives to businesses so that they do the kinds of things that you're talking about? Is that the mechanic that you're describing?
ICAHN (via telephone): You want me to tell you something? That if you did this right, if you did this right, you don't even need that much fiscal stimulus. What you need, Erik, is to get -- and actually it was ironic that Hillary said it in one of the speeches. She said, we're going to unleash the great powers of our companies, the great money that they have, we're going to unleash it, and she was right to that. But the next sentence almost was, and we're going to regulate them more and we're going to tax them more. So you're not going to unleash it.
Today, there's a tremendous amount of capital dammed up in our companies, and by the way, you can do the repatriation, and there's 2.6 trillion there, bring it home, you know. If you got that going, you really don't need the fiscal stimulus except the infrastructure, which Donald's very right on. You can go do that infrastructure, which will pay for itself, by the way, because if you get the economy going and you get the businesses spending more -- and I mean more mundane things, not just technology.
How many people are going to just text each other? That doesn't produce anything for society necessarily. All the e-mails and all that, to a point, they're fine, but what you really want to do is build the bricks and mortar part of the company, build it back, get the middle class guy working. Now, when they hear Donald talk like that, you look and almost laugh because you say, some guy in the middle west who doesn't have very much money, doesn't know where his next job is, he's a skilled worker, worried like hell he's going to lose his job on the one hand and then he listens to Trump who's saying, I'm going to get you back in work --
SCHATZKER: Carl, I don't want to get too far into economics, but where is the demand going to come from? This economy, I think we can all acknowledge, to a degree, faces some structural obstacles. People are getting older, right. The baby boomers are at the point now where they're past retirement. We've got technology, to your point, people texting each other, technological innovation and automation obviating a lot of jobs. We've got a global economy that's not growing very quickly. Just look what's happening in Europe. Who's going to spend the money on the stuff that these companies might produce if these incentives were created?
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, who's going to spend the money on it, I don't know that it's necessary that we must import -- look, I'm for free trade, perhaps more than Donald. But I think we have the ability, we have the machinery, to produce a lot of goods and services for the rest of the world also. And God knows the rest of the world does need it. They need some (inaudible). So everything isn't just cheap labor, right. We have technology, we have guys that are very skilled in this country, and eventually, you can build businesses here and build jobs here.
And if you do that, I mean, we produce a great deal of goods for the rest of the world in the Marshall Plan. It's really interesting to go back to what happened in the late 40s and how that worked.
And I'm not an economist either, Erik, and I'm not going to say that, but what I see is the immediate problem. The immediate problem in this country is for our economy is you can't just have zero interest rates and think this economy is going to keep going. And what you have to have is, let business understand they're not at war with government, and get business -- and we've been trying. Look, it's not me. The Federal Reserve has been begging to see that business starts investing. You have no productivity, because you don't have machinery. It's sort of a simple thing. Just let business put money into these -- into the actual manufacturing sector so that we can get productivity back.
It's sort of simple, because right now, I don't think anybody's going to disagree that it's perceived that we're, the government is at war with business. That happened over the eight years of Obama. And even this Obamacare is, I think, absurd. So the government has done -- I mean, Obama had an opportunity to do a lot of what I'm talking about, and instead, they just built regulatory, regulatory, regulatory. So that's my point. You need that change, and that's not a surprise.
SCHATZKER: It was partially as a result of this opinion that you had about the success or failures of the Obama administration over the past eight years and the regulation that you've described to us once again today, that you told me the last time we spoke, Carl, that you were more hedged than you've ever been before. Are you taking those hedges off today, or on the basis of a Trump win and the Republicans maintaining control of Congress, will you take those hedges off?
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, I took some of them off last night. However, I am not telling you that overnight this market's just going to run away on the upside. I still think -- there is no question. You don't just wipe out the problems because Donald's coming in in January. I mean, there's still, I think, a number of problems in our economy, and I think the zero rate interest rates are a problem.
So look, I'm not telling you overnight this is a complete change, but I think it's a major step in the right direction.
SCHATZKER: When you saw last night, I think it's an amazing story, by the way, and so perfect for Carl Icahn. You're at the Trump -- you're waiting to celebrate the Trump victory with Donald and his family and all his other backers like yourself, and you can't resist the opportunity to trade when you see the S&P 500 futures tanking. How far do you think they have to drop before you --
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, I'm making a point of that, meaning that I thought it was absurd that the market, the S&P was down 100 points on Trump getting elected, where I think by and large, there might be some problems with him getting elected, but it certainly to me is positive.
Now, how positive, am I telling you next week it's going up? No. I mean I'm not going to say that. We're not out of the woods in this economy yet. I think there's some overriding problems. But I think what you have to do is change perception and if you do, I think we got great opportunity in this country. This is a great country. We have a great country. We got a very willing workforce. And we have, you know, great ability to manufacture, and yet we just sit back and don't do anything and build regulations on regulations on regulations and then wonder why, what's wrong, why we don't have -- OK, one of the major problems of the economists that know more than me about this kind of thing will tell you that one of our major questions and problems is that productivity is not growing. And when productivities don't grow, you can't compete. And why isn't it growing? Because business is afraid to spend money. I mean, it's simple. I get into these businesses. I own them. And a guy like me likes to take shots, and I'm afraid to put money in. Today I'm not afraid as much anymore.
SCHATZKER: Well, your portfolio is measured in the billions, Carl. When you put on the trade that you described last night, how much money were you putting to work?
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, I tried to put a lot more to work, but I couldn't put more than about a billion dollars to work. And then the market got away. But I'm still happy about it. I'm still real happy about it.
SCHATZKER: You bought a billion dollars of what, of the S&P 500?
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, the S&P, was so liquid, it was unbelievably liquid. The world was going nuts. You know, last night, you know, it's amazing. The world was going into a panic for no reason, and that's my point, that I think Donald coming in is a good thing for the economy, not a bad thing. I mean, it as funny, I mean -- I'm only saying it -- I'm not doing it to boast. I honestly am not, because I'm not a trader, and I don't do very much of that. But I am saying, I'm making the point that Donald coming in is a positive for our economy, not a negative.
And all the naysayers, I think, literally live in a certain world where I don't think they see the forest for the trees. They don't see what's going on outside of the very like New York City, the Wall Street area. Oh, this is going to be terrible, Donald's going to be terrible -- he's not going to be terrible in my opinion. I know who he is. He's a smart guy. I mean, OK, everybody has a little problems with a little faults, there's no question about it. But if you want to talk about faults, there are plenty of faults on the other side.
But I'm getting to the point that I think, again, Erik, that this is very positive for our economy. But I'm not telling you that it's going to change next week.
SCHATZKER: So let's talk about how it evolves over the next several months and quarters and the four years of Donald Trump's presidency. Carl, when you survey the economy, what industries are going to be most attractive? Where do you expect Donald Trump to take action on regulation? Where do you want to be investing today, or weeks and months and quarters from now where you didn't want to be investing yesterday?
ICAHN (via telephone): Well, where I'm involved, for instance, is energy. Energy has been really pushed down by literally by the administration, right. So you worry that you do fracking. And all of the sudden, you shouldn't do this and you shouldn't do that and you can't do this -- and you know what? We should be oil independent. If we're oil independent in this country with the fracking, it gives you a whole new look at the Middle East and all those problems and one of the reasons we're involved in the Middle East, and let's face facts, because I like to be a realist -- we could go into this whole moral issues, but the real issue is the oil, OK. Africa has more moral issues than the Middle East and we don't do a damn thing about Rwanda and stuff like that. So what, we're here -- and so now, you start rebuilding your energy back up.
SCHATZKER: Can I just pin you down, if you don't mind, are you saying that because of what you think he'll do in energy, that's a sector in which, and fracking in particular, you want to be making investments? Or you're happy with what you've got now?
ICAHN (via telephone): No, I'm not telling people how to invest here. I'm just saying to you that let's start with the whole fracking industry and with regulations coming on regulations and I think we now have a new perception. Everything is perception, or most things are perception when it comes to business and thinking about it. I mean last night there was a panic perception. Now there's this.
But what I'm saying to you is that if you think about it, the perception now is going to be, OK. Let's become energy independent. Look at our refineries. The EPA was literally making some decision with some guys up in Ann Arbor deciding which refineries are going to go bankrupt, just deciding. And I don't think they even meant to. Just because they could, and because -- so now hopefully that's not going to happen anymore.
SCHATZKER: Is there an industry that you see benefiting from less regulation that you would want to be putting more money to work in?
ICAHN (via telephone): The refineries. Right there, it's simple. The refineries have been beat down. I'm not going to go into each refinery, what is. I own a refinery. I'm proud to say it.
SCHATZKER: I was thinking outside of refineries, perhaps healthcare, financial --
ICAHN (via telephone): Healthcare, there's another one, with all the -- with all the -- government just got way too far into some of this stuff, way too far. Now, I want to make it clear, like the FTC has done some good stuff. You want to stop monopolies from happening. OK. And all these -- even the EPA has done some good stuff. There's the average (inaudible) mean. We've gone way over it as far as many of these regulatory agencies. And now that's going to move back. And when that moves back, I think it's going to incentivize business.
SCHATZKER: What about anti-trust? Trump has specifically -- specifically a couple of weeks ago talked about wanting to break up AT&T Time Warner. But a lighter regulatory hand, the kind that you describe, does not sound like that. What are you expecting to do on anti-trust? What do you want him to do on anti-trust?
ICAHN (via telephone): Well look, I'm just talking very, very broadly on anti-trust. I'm not anti-trust expert, not going to pretend to be. I know the areas where I own businesses and I see what happens, and I see the reluctance of business to invest, OK. When you get into anti-trust, yes, a large monopoly, a large oligopoly is very bad, is very bad for a free enterprise system. And OK, I hate to get back into the energy business or the refinery business, but there too, what the EPA was doing by putting these little refineries out of business was going to set up big oil -- they were going to do for big oil what they could never do for themselves. Big oil was going to become an oligopoly, and by the way, you'd have very bad repercussions. So OK, I don't believe --
SCHATZKER: You see a role for anti-trust?
ICAHN (via telephone): Definitely. A role for anti-trust and a role for regulation. I'm not saying don't regulate. There's a role for regulation, especially in Wall Street. I think Wall Street had been better regulated, there wouldn't have been '08. OK, so I'm not telling you don't regulate. But I am telling you that in many areas, the regulation has run amuck.
SCHATZKER: I hear that. I'm just trying to get a sense from you, how heavy or light a hand do you think Donald Trump and his administration will have when it comes to anti-trust when he appoints the next attorney general, and the anti-trust (inaudible) at the DOJ, or the FTC, for that matter?
ICAHN (via telephone): OK, so let me tell you something, Erik. I can talk about markets and I can talk about business I'm in. I am not the one to talk about anti-trust regulation. I'm just not the right guy. And I will tell you very generally, I do not think oligopolies or monopolies certainly are good for the country. However, I am not going to get in the Time Warner, I haven't studied it. I was at Time Warner once. I understand it has got a lot of great companies under it. But I am not here to tell you, should there be or not be anti-trust concerning Time Warner. I mean, that's a bad question to answer. You can ask me about my companies if you want, but don't ask me about Time Warner.
SCHATZKER: Well I'll finish up, then, by asking about AIG, Carl, because we've talked about it before. You've said that perhaps AIG should consider selling off its Japanese business. Do you still feel the same way? AIG just last week had a very disappointing quarter, stocks up marginally today. What's your current view?
ICAHN (via telephone): Yes, no, I stick with it. AIG -- I said, and I got to be a little careful, because we're on the board, and I have a confidentiality there, but in general, I think I've said it, and actually, I'm hoping that Peter Hancock agrees with it, which I think to a large extent he does, but I can't speak for him, that what they should be doing -- see, I look at it, big picture, you know. You look at companies that got unique -- a unique values, and one is, there are a lot of legacy companies at AIG that should be sold, and I think Peter's been doing some of that. I would like to see it be done quicker, but it's being done.
So AIG is selling way below its equity value. That's important in the insurance industry. And what you do is sell those and get out of those businesses that you're in the legacy business, and to some extent, what we talked about in Japan, the life insurance. And I think that is going to make that company worth a great deal more. Being that said, I really can't go into what's going on more than that.
SCHATZKER: Carl, one quick question before I run out of time. Hertz, you increased your position. Are you going to be buying more?
ICAHN (via telephone): Again, I obviously, over the last, yesterday and two days ago, bought a great deal of Hertz, you know. It's public. I think that Hertz is a sort of misunderstood company. And has taken -- obviously has taken some steps that perhaps they shouldn't have taken. And I'm not going to get into it. We're on the board and all. But I think by buying close to 15 percent of the company in one day, which is sort of unheard of, I think that speaks for itself, you know, as far as --
SCHATZKER: It does speak for itself, but it doesn't answer the question as to what you're going to do beyond this. Yes, you own --
ICAHN (via telephone): Well you know I'm not going to tell you -- I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do beyond it. In fact, I'm not even sure I know. But if I did, I can't talk about that, exactly what I'm going to do with the stock myself, personally.
SCHATZKER: Carl, I thank you very much for spending this time on Bloomberg Television. Vonnie, that is Carl Icahn, a man who clearly needs no further introduction.