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"We don't generally comment on rumors, but the recent media speculation regarding our sale of Manitowoc stock calls for a response. We state for the record: Any suggestion that we had prior knowledge of the Trump administration's announcement of new tariffs on steel imports is categorically untrue. We reduced our position in Manitowoc for legitimate investment reasons having nothing to do with that announcement," the statement read.
Critics noted that the billionaire investor, a former advisor to Trump, seemed to have pretty good timing with his sales of Manitowoc ahead of the president's tariff plan announcement last week.
Construction equipment makers like Manitowoc use steel in their manufacturing.
According to a securities filing, investment entities controlled by Icahn shed one-third of their stakes in Manitowoc from Feb. 12 through Feb. 22. The entities sold nearly 940,000 shares at prices ranging from roughly $32 per share to $34 per share, the SEC filing said. The sales totaled about $31 million.
After the trades, Icahn still owned 4.85 percent of the company, down from his previous stake of 7.5 percent, according to filings.
Manitowoc shares dropped 4.8 percent on Feb. 16 after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross released "Steel and Aluminum 232" reports at noon that day, which recommended a global tariff of at least 24 percent on all steel imports.
The company's stock dropped another 6 percent Thursday after Trump announced his plan to impose tariffs of 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum.
Icahn resigned from his post as special advisor on regulation to Trump in August 2017.