Taking activist investing up a notch
Name: Bill Ackman
Title: CEO, Pershing Square Capital Management
Last year, Bill Ackman brought activist investing to a whole new level when he teamed up with Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX) on a hostile pursuit of Allergan ($AGN). And while the bid ultimately failed, it's hard to say the takeover fight won't be weighing on directors' minds this year.
For one, Ackman has already made a play for control at another industry player--animal health leader Zoetis ($ZTS). In February, his Pershing Square Capital Management won a seat on the Pfizer ($PFE) spinoff's board for colleague William Doyle after snapping up $1.5 billion in company shares at the end of last year.
Whether he'll attempt to join forces with another potential buyer and get Zoetis sold remains to be seen--and so does whether other activist investors will take a page from his playbook. After all, the strategy raised some eyebrows among regulators and litigation-minded investors who saw shades of insider trading in the partnership.
But either way, his actions may embolden other activist shareholders to stir things up. As EY analysts wrote in a recent report, "shareholder activism is on the rise," and they expect it to be one of the key factors affecting biopharma M&A this year.
As a result, they foresee execs putting more time and effort into shoring up their defenses--whether their companies are rumored targets or not. "You'll see boards and senior management teams giving analysts more respect and trying to get out in front of investors and preempt" the Ackmans out there, report author Jeff Greene told FiercePharma in January. They'll "take their own actions to maximize shareholder value before activists can get involved."
-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)
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