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Netflix Stock Surges as Icahn Buys Big Stake

Tickers in this article: NFLX

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Netflix (NFLX) 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.