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Netflix Stock Surges as Icahn Buys Big Stake

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) shares surged as much as 20% after legendary activist investor Carl Icahn took a large stake in the movie-streaming and DVD-rental company.

Icahn on Wednesday disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission he has a 9.9% stake in Netflix, or 4,291,066 shares.

Netflix shares rose sharply in reaction to Icahn's disclosure, jumping 20% before briefly being halted in Nasdaq trading. Upon resumption of trading late on Wednesday, Netflix shares were up 14% to $79.56. The company's stock has gained over 20% this year, as the news of Icahn's stake is helping to stem a slide from March's highs of $120-plus.

The filing didn't say if Icahn plans to nominate board seats to the struggling video service.

For Icahn, his newly unveiled Netflix stake represents a return to the tech sector after waging a successful campaign for the breakup of Motorola into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions (MSI). In August 2011, Motorola Mobility was sold to Google (GOOG), in one of the largest technology deals since the financial crisis.

In recent days, Netflix has been rumored to be under the gaze of Microsoft (MSFT). Company officials denied the speculation. At this time last year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings mapped out a plan to split the company's streaming subscription business from its mail-order unit. Investors and analysts balked, prompting the company to retreat from its plan.

Earlier in October, Icahn submitted a tender offer for military truck maker Oshkosh (OSK) in a $3 billion bid worth $32.50 a share. The Wisconsin-based company's board quickly rejected Icahn's offer, signaling he may need to make a buyout pitch directly to shareholders.

Netflix stands out as Icahn's most notable investment of the fall after he successfully imparted a host of board changes at struggling oil and gas giant Chesapeake Energy (CHK), and was seen as instrumental in the company's divestiture of billions in non-core exploration and midstream assets.

In August, after a rare win in a tender offer campaign for refiner CVR Energy (CVI), Icahn withdrew his bid and is now in the process of IPO-ing individual pieces of the company.

For more on Carl Icahn, see his investment portfolio.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.

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