Billionaire share raider threatens Oshkosh future

Vehicles giant appeals to shareholders in open fight with billionaire

JLG is owned by Oshkosh
JLG is owned by Oshkosh

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Speciality vehicles and equipment maker Oshkosh has broken months of silence to make a public appeal to its shareholders to not support US billionaire Carl Icahn's attempt to wrestle control of the company's board.

Oshkosh, which is one of the world's biggest manufacturers of trucks and a major military contractor, issued a statement earlier this week urging shareholders to not  replace six members of its board with "his own hand-picked slate of six nominees".

After buying 10% of Oshkosh's shares earlier this year, Icahn has become the single biggest shareholder of the company. The billionaire is also the largest shareholder of truck-maker Navistar and there are concerns he may be positioning a merger between the two companies. Icahn himself told cable TV network CNBC last week, that he would support a merger.

"I definitely think it would be a good merger," Icahn said.

Oshkosh has maintained a silence on the matter to this point but has gone public to raise support from its shareholders. It revealed in the statement that despite constant contact with Icahn and his representatives for months, it has yet to receive a definitive answer from him regarding his plans for the company. With its annual general meeting due to take place in January, the company wants shareholders not to vote for Icahn-backed candidates.

"We have repeatedly asked Mr Icahn and his team for their ideas regarding the Company and how best to create shareholder value. To date, he has not discussed with us any ideas for creating value or what he thinks the Company should be doing differently for the benefit of Oshkosh shareholders," said the statement. "We do not believe that Icahn is interested in a dialogue that enhances value for all Oshkosh shareholders.

"Instead, we believe he is pursuing his own personal agenda without regard for the interests of the company and all other shareholders. You should be aware that he has selected as his nominees four candidates who are currently employed by  Icahn or one of his entities and another who has had a long relationship with Icahn beginning in college.

"The Oshkosh Board of Directors is committed to acting in your best interests and believes that a board that represents the interests of all shareholders, not just the interests of one shareholder, is better positioned to maximse long-term value and generate superior returns for all shareholders."

Oshkosh makes military trucks, emergency vehicles, access equipment and a variety of construction-related trucks but has endured a tough couple of years as demand fell for its products in the US. However it has performed better overseas and global sales now account for 17% of total revenue. 

"We expect substantial opportunities for adoption and penetration of our products in emerging markets," the company said. "Oshkosh's net sales outside the US grew from 10% in fiscal 2010 to 17% in fiscal 2011. Our goal is to increase this to 30% as our international strategy gains traction."

It added: " We have aggressively forward-deployed in a number of countries to pursue cutting-edge defense product opportunities in the Middle East and across the Americas."

 

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