Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE:FCX): Billionaire Carl Icahn is Betting Big on Copper Prices

Copper PricesIn an era of falling commodities prices, investing in copper doesn’t look like a popular choice. However, billionaire investor Carl Icahn just disclosed an 8.5% stake in copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX). (Source: The Securities and Exchange Commission, last accessed September 2, 2015.)

According to a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Icahn owned 88 million shares of Freeport-McMoRan. At the company’s current stock price of $9.69, Icahn’s stake is worth approximately $852.7 million.

The disclosure revealed that Icahn had become the largest shareholder of Freeport-McMoRan with an 8.5% stake.

The famed activist investor has a track record of success. Most recently, Carl Icahn sold the last of his shares in Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). Analysts estimated that the billionaire investor took home a profit of at least $2.0 billion.

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Freeport-McMoRan is the one of the largest copper mining companies the world. The company also produces gold and has oil and gas interests. It operates through five segments: North America Copper mines, South America mining, Indonesia mining, Africa mining, and molybdenum operations.

Plunging Copper Prices

The past several years haven’t been nice for metals. Gold and silver saw their prices plunging, and so did copper. Since February 2011, spot copper price has dropped more than 50% from $4.64 per pound to $2.29 per pound.

Plunging commodities prices have given a hard time to mining companies like Freeport-McMoRan. In the second quarter of 2015, the company had a net loss of $1.85 billion, or a loss of $1.78 per share. (Source: Freeport-McMoRan, last accessed September 2, 2015.)

Against the gruesome backdrop of falling commodities prices and world economic slowdown, the company is planning to make further spending cuts. In 2016, Freeport-McMoRan expects to reduce mining capital expenditures by 25%, or $700 million. (Source: Freeport-McMoRan, last accessed September 2, 2015.)

After disclosing his huge stake in the company, Carl Icahn said that his fund might seek representation on Freeport-McMoRan’s board. In response to the activist investor’s newly taken stake, the company said that it “maintains an open dialogue with our shareholders and welcomes constructive input toward our common goal of enhancing shareholder value.” (Source: Freeport-McMoRan, last accessed September 2, 2015.)

Freeport-McMoRan’s stock price shot up after the announcement of spending cuts, and surged again after the disclosure of Carl Icahn’s stake in the company. However, at $9.69 a share, the company’s stock price has declined 58.5% year-to-date.