CVR Energy

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On the other hand, CVR Energy ( CVI) is having a stellar year. Shares of the refiner are up more than 85% so far this year, boosted by Icahn's public bid and a plan to take the company private. That plan got scrapped more recently when Icahn conceded that commodity prices made taking the company private unfeasible -- but he's not selling.

In fact, as recently as the second quarter, Icahn continued buying to the tune of 58.6 million shares. According to Icahn Associates' 13F, the firm owns 82% of CVR right now.

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With going private off the table, Icahn is going to operate the business with hopes of continuing to shop the firm once refining spreads improve. Mid-cap CVR is an independent refiner with operations in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, that also owns a fertilizer business. The firm's 185,000 barrel per day capacity mean that it's on the smaller end of the refining spectrum, but its Midwest positioning exposes the firm to a much more profitable side of refining than most supermajors have access to. That's evident in CVR's consistently high net profit margins.

With activist investor Carl Icahn helming the ship -- and with a willing crew in the firm's management team -- CVR has the potential to extract some attractive value for shareholders in 2012. The stock's rally means that the biggest profits have already been made, but investors seeking out energy exposure could do worse than a stable, highly-profitable refiner.

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