Seasoned takeover specialist Carl Icahn offered to purchase Visx Inc. in a cash deal valued at about $1.9 billion, raising the stakes in his fight to force the laser-eye-correction equipment maker into a merger. Icahn said in a letter to the company that he would be "willing to engage in a cash merger with Visx" at $32 a share, a 54% premium to Thursday's closing price. The letter came two days after Icahn disclosed he had held preliminary talks with two eye-care companies willing to discuss purchasing Visx at about the same price. Icahn, who owns a 9.9% stake in Visx, is in the midst of a proxy fight for control of five seats on the company's board at its upcoming annual meeting. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Visx issued a statement saying it was prepared to "promptly meet with Mr. Icahn concerning his proposal and its conditions and contingencies." However, the company also said it was skeptical of Icahn's proposal and believed it was "just another ploy" to garner support for his slate of board nominees on the eve of the May 4 meeting. Visx shares jumped $2.92 to close at $23.75 on the New York Stock Exchange.