By Michael Flaherty
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Carl Icahn continued to throw his support behind the Republican U.S. presidential candidate on Tuesday, saying Donald Trump would reduce the regulation of U.S. companies.
Icahn also said that nutrition and weight management company Herbalife would be a strong candidate to go private, saying such a move would allow it to avoid the kind of criticism aimed at it from Pershing Square hedge fund founder William Ackman.
"If you look ahead three years, this economy will be a lot better if Trump gets elected" rather than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Icahn said, speaking at the CNBC "Delivering Alpha" event in New York.
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Trump has said that Icahn would be a great U.S. Treasury secretary though whether the 80-year-old hedge fund manager would commit to such a role remains unclear.
Icahn expressed his frustration at U.S. regulators on Tuesday, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency which he says has neglected to speak to him about his concerns regarding ethanol blending requirements for the fuel refineries in his investment portfolio.
Icahn said that fear of "irrational" government regulations are a main reason why chief executives are not re-investing in their businesses and instead buying back stock. Trump would aim to reduce such regulations, Icahn said.
Icahn also addressed his ongoing feud with Ackman, who in 2012 claimed Herbalife was running a pyramid scheme, and made a huge wager against the stock. Icahn emerged later as a buyer of the shares.
Herbalife settled a probe of its sales practices with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in July. Icahn has continued buying shares, and the feud with Ackman has continued.
"I think that Herbalife is certainly a candidate to go private. In fact, frankly, wearing my shareholder hat, I think Herbalife is a lot better private and getting away from this Ackman-type criticism," Icahn said at the CNBC event. "Ackman is out there driving everybody crazy, which is his right to do. He's obsessed with this."
An Ackman spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
(Additional reporting by Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Cynthia Osterman)