Bill Ackman takes $2.2B stake in Air Products

The activist investor admits he may have revealed too much of his plan.

By Benzinga Jul 31, 2013 11:42AM

Stock investor (© Tom Grill/Corbis)By Tim Parker


Wednesday morning, CNBC broke the news that activist investor Bill Ackman has taken a 9.8% stake in Air Products & Chemicals (APD). The stock immediately spiked 4% in premarket trading.


Ackman's Pershing Square Capital, best known for its recent battle with billionaire Carl Icahn over Herbalife (HLF), acquired almost 10% of the $22 billion company. Pershing said the company has a large barrier to entry and as a result few competitors. This kind of business has served him well in the past, specifically with his bet on railroad giant, Canadian Pacific (CP).


Ackman would only say that Pershing Square has, "some ideas on how to add value." If he uses a similar playbook to Canadian Pacific, he will likely propose new management and wage a proxy fight if the board resists.


The Ackman stake in APD isn't exactly a surprise. Ackman himself said that he probably revealed too much. "I was a little too cute in my letter to investors. I didn't expect people to be running around looking for the company. I think it alerted the market."


Last week, Air Products adopted a poison pill plan, citing unusually high trading volume.


The plan gives existing shareholders the right to purchase deeply discounted new shares if a group like Pershing Square were to acquire 10% or more of the shares outstanding without board approval.


Air Products likely suspected that it was Ackman. After he revealed in a letter that he built up a position in a large-cap investment-grade corporation, many have speculated that it might be Air Products.


On July 25, the stock soared on rumors that Ackman had taken a stake in the company. CNBC's David Faber pointed out that the street was suspecting Air Products. This was the same day that the company adopted the poison pill or what it called a "stockholder rights plan."


Ackman's desire to be in the public eye has worked against him of late. Not only does he admit that if he wouldn't have said so much in his letter, Pershing Square would have purchased more of Air Products' stock, his very public announcement of his Herbalife short attracted many of Wall Street's biggest titans who went long the stock.


Ackman is now in the red on Herbalife, although he said that he hasn't covered one share of his short position.


Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Tim Parker had no position in the stocks mentioned.


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