Bill Ackman’s PSTH scraps Universal Music deal after SEC pushback -but the billionaire investor is still buying a stake

Ackman, Bill Ackman
Bill Ackman.

  • Bill Ackman’s PSTH won’t buy 10% of Universal Music for about $4 billion after SEC pushback.
  • The billionaire investor’s Pershing Square funds will purchase a stake in Universal instead.
  • PSTH now plans to pursue a conventional SPAC transaction.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bill Ackman has scrapped his plan to buy 10% of Universal Music for $4 billion using his special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) after federal regulators poured cold water on the proposed transaction, the billionaire investor told Pershing Square Tontine Holdings (PSTH) shareholders in a letter on Monday.

PSTH will transfer its share-purchase agreement to Ackman’s Pershing Square company and its affiliates, the investor wrote. That way, he still becomes a shareholder and Universal-owner Vivendi won’t be “left at the altar,” he added.

The SPAC’s board unanimously decided on Sunday to ditch the Universal deal after speaking to the SEC and realizing the agency would probably nix it. PSTH’s directors will now focus on completing a conventional SPAC deal, and have 18 months to close one unless shareholders vote for an extension.

Ackman was caught off guard by the backlash from some PSTH shareholders to the complexity and structure of the original deal, he noted in his letter. The investor also underestimated its potential impact on investors who can’t hold foreign securities, margin their shares, or own call options on PSTH stock, he added.

Before the SEC dashed his hopes, Ackman envisaged PSTH shareholders receiving Universal shares after Vivendi takes the division public this September, continuing to own PSTH stock while the SPAC sniffs out a merger free of the usual time constraints, and securing rights to buy shares in a new investment vehicle called a SPARC once it agrees its own transaction.

PSTH’s withdrawal from the Universal deal will disappoint some of Ackman’s fans, who spent seven months speculating about the identity of his acquisition target. Others who weren’t thrilled at the Universal deal might welcome the SPAC hitting the reset button on its search.

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Investors are worried Bill Ackman’s SPAC is struggling to find an acquisition target

FILE PHOTO: Bill Ackman, chief executive officer and portfolio manager at Pershing Square Capital Management, speaks during the SALT conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. May 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Richard Brian
Bill Ackman, chief executive officer and portfolio manager at Pershing Square Capital Management, speaks during the SALT conference in Las Vegas

  • Investors are getting anxious about billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman finding a target for his SPAC to take public, Institutional Investor reported.
  • Ackman says a deal has been in the works since November, and that the SPAC team has done its homework.
  • Even so, if he can’t get the transaction done, Ackman said his SPAC will move on to another target.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Investors are starting to worry Bill Ackman’s blank-check company is struggling to find an acquisition target, Institutional Investor reported this week.

The billionaire hedge fund manager told investors on a Wednesday call that he will make an announcement whether his Pershing Square Tontine Holdings SPAC gets a deal done with the current target or has to move on.

The uncertaintly is making retail investors anxious. The story from Institutional Investor found sentiment was low on a “PTSH support group” page comprised of retail traders. One told the magazine that it “seems like the deal won’t happen” as Ackman keeps mentioning the idea of a backup target.

His SPAC – which launched with the goal of spending $5 billion to take a private business public – started working on a transaction in early November.

“We’ve done our homework, we like the business, we love the management team, and we are working to complete a transaction, as I said within weeks,” he said on the call, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

“If we cannot get this transaction done, we will move on to target number two, and there are other interesting opportunities for us to pursue,” he added.

Following Ackman’s comments, shares of Tontine, which went public in July 2020 under the ticker PTSH, declined, closing out the day 1.2% lower.

According to a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange commission, Tontine said it’s “currently in negotiations with a specific business target and while substantial progress has been made, significant issues remain to be addressed before a transaction can be announced and consummated, if at all.”

Several institutional investors have sold all or some of their positions in the SPAC, though its early backers are still in place. Hedge Fund Soroban Capital sold its stake of 5 million shares, Taconic Capital sold half of its 1.1 million shares, and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan sold 4.3 million shares, though that was only part of its investment, Institutional Investor reported.

But early backers Guggenheim Capital and Baupost Group still hold tens of millions of shares in Ackman’s SPAC.

On The Wall Street Journal’s “The Future of Everything Festival,” Ackman said he and his team found an “iconic, phenomenal, great business with a great management team that meets all of our criteria.” But, the nature of the target, the complexity of the deal, and other issues have caused delays, he said, adding that the company is so attractive it will be “worth the energy and the effort.”

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Billionaire investor Bill Ackman hopes to close his mega SPAC deal in a couple of weeks – and continues to hedge against inflation and a market downturn

Bill Ackman, Ackman, William Ackman
Bill Ackman

  • Bill Ackman hopes to close his huge SPAC deal in the next couple of weeks.
  • The Pershing Square chief is hedging against inflation and a market correction.
  • Ackman switched Starbucks stock for Domino’s Pizza based on valuation and likely upside.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman hopes to close his mega-SPAC deal in the next couple of weeks, continues to hedge against inflation and a potential market downturn, and swapped out Starbucks for Domino’s Pizza in search of higher returns, he said on an earnings call this week.

Ackman’s “blank-check” company, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, floated last summer with the goal of spending about $5 billion for a minority stake in a private company and taking it public. The investor revealed earlier this month that he’s been working to buy a piece of an “iconic, phenomenal, great business” since early November, and was close to sealing the deal.

“We’ve done our homework, we like the business, we love the management team, and we are working to complete a transaction,” Ackman said this week. “Hopefully within a couple of weeks or so.”

If the deal falls through, Ackman and his team will turn their attention to a second target, he added.

Ackman, who made a $2.6 billion profit by hedging the pandemic last spring, also weighed in on growing inflation fears and the steps he’s taken to protect his portfolio. He pointed to multiple government-stimulus packages over the past year, and the prospect of pent-up demand being released and savings being spent as the economy reopens, as drivers of higher prices that could spur the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates. That represents a “risk for markets generally,” he said.

The uncertain backdrop prompted his fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, to spend $157 million on interest-rate “swaptions” between December and early February. The position’s value – which ballooned to almost $500 million by the end of March – is still up about 2.5 times, Ackman said.

The Pershing chief also elaborated on why his fund sold a 1% stake in Starbucks and snapped up more than 5% of Domino’s – a position valued at about $750 million as of March 31 and $860 million today. The move was driven by price and potential upside, he said.

“We’re always willing to trade an existing holding at a kind of full valuation for a business of similar quality at a much more attractive valuation,” Ackman said. “That was the thinking behind the switch.”

The investor and his team determined that Starbucks was likely to generate returns in the low double digits, while Domino’s promises long-term returns in the high teens or low 20s, he added.

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Billionaire investor Bill Ackman is eyeing a second SPAC deal even though he will miss his own Q1 deadline to find a first target

Bill Ackman
Bill Ackman.

  • Pershing Square chief Bill Ackman is already planning a second SPAC, but hasn’t yet found a first target.
  • Airbnb, Stripe, and Bloomberg LP were previously said to be among his blank-check firm’s first targets.
  • Ackman said he believes his SPAC will be an important contributor to his hedge fund’s performance.
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Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman is already planning a second blank-check company, although he expects to miss his own first-quarter deadline to find a first target.

The legendary investor had hoped his special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) would find a target by the end of the first quarter, but now admits this might not happen. Prior targets on the list of his Pershing Square Tontine Holdings SPAC included Airbnb, Stripe, and Bloomberg LP, according to Reuters.

“While we previously believed that we would be able to announce a potential transaction by the end of this quarter, we will not be in a position to do so,” Ackman said in a letter to investors on Monday. “We do not intend to make any announcements about PSTH’s transaction progress until we enter into a definitive agreement.”

Ackman said he believes his SPAC will be an important contributor to the hedge fund’s performance and he will likely launch a second one after completing a first merger. Investors in his first SPAC should have the right to invest in the second one “without paying a premium to its cash-in-trust value,” he wrote in the letter.

Ackman’s PSTH was the highest-profile SPAC among hedge funds in 2020, when SPACs raised $83 billion across 248 IPOs, smashing the previous record of $13.6 billion, according to SPACInsider.com. His SPAC raised a record-breaking $4 billion via proceeds from investors in July last year, along with an added $1 billion commitment from Pershing Square.

While he has not told investors which companies he was looking to take over, a previous filing stated he is drawn to “high-quality, venture-backed businesses” that could be classified as “mature unicorns.” Unicorns are privately-held startups with a valuation of more than $1 billion.

The SPAC has until July 21 next year to sign a letter of intent and six months after that to close a signed deal, according to Bloomberg.

Shares in Pershing Square Tontine fell 1.3% in pre-market trading on Tuesday.

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‘This seems like a genocide’: Billionaire investor Bill Ackman slams delays in getting the COVID vaccine to the elderly

Bill Ackman
  • Billionaire investor Bill Ackman tweeted on Tuesday, slamming logistical failures in the US vaccine rollout. 
  • “If Elon Musk can deliver 500k Teslas and Jeff Bezos can provide same-hour delivery, we can vaccinate every American” he tweeted.
  • As of January 4, the US has vaccinated fewer than five million people.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman tweeted criticisms of the US rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. He called it a “failure of logistics and mismanagement during the transition” in a series of tweets on January 5.

Ackman, CEO of the hedge fund Pershing Square, criticized the prolonged vaccine rollout as cases continue to increase. The pandemic continues to break records, with average daily cases surpassing 275,000, and more than 350,000 people in the US have now died of COVID-19, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

A record 3900 people died on December 30. Vaccinations so far have been chaotic, as health departments lack staff or expertise to administer the vaccine and get doses to the right places and as of January 4 fewer than 5 million people in the US had been vaccinated.

In a follow-up tweet, Ackman said that there was no logistical excuse for botching the vaccinations.

“If Elon Musk can deliver 500k Teslas and Jeff Bezos can provide same-hour delivery, we can vaccinate every American. The time is now!” he wrote, referring to the CEOs of Tesla and Amazon.

 

In a follow-up tweet, Ackman said the mismanagement of the vaccine “seems like genocide” of the elderly.

“We are killing the Greatest Generation … If the virus killed mostly children rather than the aged, would we sit back and allow this to happen?” he wrote, alluding to ageism.

Pershing Square did not respond to Business Insider’s request for further comment on Ackman’s tweets.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on Sunday that vaccinations could speed up soon. He said that the US could be vaccinating one million people each day.

Ackman’s Pershing Square fund posted a 70% return in 2020, much of which was realized from the firm’s anticipation of the pandemic’s devastating effects on business early in the year through credit-default swaps.

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