Bill Ackman (Trades, Portfolio) of Pershing Square, the second most well known activist investor only after Carl Icahn (Trades, Portfolio), just raised more money by issuing a billion worth of bonds. The NY Post reported that according to a source on an investor's call: Ackman plans to use the debt proceeds to help his $20 billion fund take on a big target. Ackman gets his fair share of headlines, and his targets usually quickly get bumped up a few notches. That makes it both fun and potentially profitable to speculate on his next target. With his fund getting bigger and bigger targets are becoming scarce which helps.
To try and deduce what company Pershing Square will target, the first thing I did was set up a screen that excludes companies based on Ackman’s likely preferences. My screen excluded companies below $50 billion because he is going after a big target. It also excluded various industries like retail, energy and basic materials that I think he is unlikely to invest in right now based on his historic preferences and public comments he made. In addition I only included companies with a multiyear stable operating cash flow record and finally also excluded companies that analysts are extremely optimistic about because these are not logical targets for an activist. Finally, I expect Ackman will not invest outside the U.S. because of the additional legal issues and because of all the additional travel he and his team would need to do which could hurt the overall portfolio. Continue Reading »