Ackman defends Valeant, hints at more changes
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Caroline Humer
BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor William Ackman on Monday mounted a vigorous defense of Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX.TO: Quote), ruling out any sale of the drug company's "crown jewel" assets but saying price cuts and even a new name may be in its future.
Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management owns 9 percent of Valeant, predicted the company would turn around with the help of its new chief executive officer and by selling greater volumes of products instead of just raising the price of its drugs.
He also took aim at Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N: Quote) Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, who criticized Valeant at Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting over the weekend.
"The company is not a sewer," Ackman said on CNBC television's "Halftime Report," echoing the words Munger used to describe Valeant. "It is not fair to indict an entire company based on the actions of a few," Ackman said.
Valeant has become Ackman's biggest headache in the last year as the stock price tumbled some 85 percent. One year ago he touted the Canadian company as one of his best ideas at the Sohn Investment conference. This year he will not be speaking at the conference, where he has been a regular for years.
Ackman told CNBC, he is sticking with Valeant because he feels he can "fix" the company.
"The time to invest is pretty much when everyone thinks this is a bad idea," Ackman said, calling Valeant "the cheapest large company I've seen in my career."
In the roughly six weeks that Ackman and his firm's Vice Chairman Steve Fraidin have been directors on Valeant's board, the board has hired Joseph Papa to replace Michael Pearson as chief executive and ensured that the company released its long delayed annual report on Friday. Continued...