Bill Ackman hints at possible Valeant Pharmaceuticals sale

Embattled Valeant Pharmaceuticals may be coming around to the idea of selling itself.

Hedge fund mogul Bill Ackman, who has lost more than $2 billion on his Valeant investment, wrote an e-mail to the Canadian drug giant’s boss, Michael Pearson, acknowledging the company’s efforts to review options that could reverse its losing streak. He also praised Pearson’s leadership.

Valeant shares closed down 14 percent, at $78.77, Thursday. The stock has lost 62 percent of its value since Sept. 18, when controversy about its drug pricing and business practices sent the company into a tailspin.

“You have assured me that you and the rest of the board are considering any and all alternatives that would benefit shareholders,” Ackman wrote.

The term “alternatives” — Wall Street parlance for a sale or breakup — could “spook the shorts” betting on more declines, said one investor.

It isn’t the first time Ackman has hinted at a sale. In a marathon four-hour call Friday, he mentioned that a new Pfizer-Allergan combination might make a good buyer. Merck has also been floated by investors.

Others said that smaller-sized Eli Lilly would be a better fit, as the combined company would still qualify for Valeant’s favorable tax treatment under new IRS rules.

Although Pearson and Valeant’s board have resisted the notion of selling — which would be a rebuke of its acquisition-fueled strategy — their dire reality could force their hand.

“No way they watch the stock slide 15 percent a day and do nothing,” said another investor.

Ackman’s assurance of “confidence” in Pearson comes after a Wall Street Journal profile had the billionaire investor questioning whether Pearson was the right person to lead the company.

By Michelle Celarier

November 5, 2015


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