Bill Ackman has made yet another prediction about Herbalife Ltd (NYSE:HLF). He spoke at Saiid Business School at the University of Oxford recently, covering everything from activist investing to Herbalife, J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) and Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP) (TSE:CP).
He estimates that in all of his activist investing history, he’s had 24 wins, two “not wins” and one tie. At this point it’s unclear which category Herbalife falls into.
Bill Ackman on Canadian Pacific
When speaking with the university students, Ackman held up his results with Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP) (TSE:CP) as the “perfect example” of activist investing, although he assured them that it doesn’t always work out so well. He told them that doing due diligence up front is important, and after studying Canadian Pacific, he found that he could turn the company around if he replaced the man he saw as “the worst CEO in the railroad industry” with the best in the railroad industry.
Of course he was met with resistance by the company’s board because the idea came from outside, but after a proxy contest, they were able to put up seven nominations for the company’s board. Shareholders voted with them 90% of the time, and they put their directors on the board, turning it into almost the most profitable railroad in North America after 16 months. He notes that the company’s market capitalization surged from $8 billion to $25 billion in just that short amount of time.
Ackman on Herbalife
Of course Ackman didn’t just talk about his big wins. He once again predicted that Herbalife Ltd (NYSE:HLF) would go bust. This time, he put a time frame on it, although it’s a pretty big time frame.
“I’ll make a prediction,” he told the interviewer. “…This business will be shut down, this business will collapse, I can’t give you the precise date, but we will have made progress in that direction within 12 months.”
Ackman has been attempting to chip away at the company for almost a year now, calling it a pyramid scheme. In the interview at Oxford, he said that the company targets “unsophisticated, unemployed, low income” people, particularly those in immigrant communities. A number of lawmakers and leaders of organizations have come forward along with Ackman to urge regulators to investigate Herbalife, although they haven’t moved on it yet.
Ackman claims 99% of people lose money distributing Herbalife Ltd (NYSE:HLF). He believes there are about 50 people who make $5 million or $10 million a year and just a thousand who make a few hundred thousand a year from Herbalife. He also claims 3.6 million people lose between $300 and $30,000 or more by distributing the company’s products.
So why does Ackman remain convinced that Herbalife Ltd (NYSE:HLF) will collapse? He says it’s simple. He believes pyramid schemes eventually run out of “victims” and then collapse. He notes that the company increased its sales in the U.K. in the last quarter by 92% and said that it has found “a new immigrant population to go after” there.
According to Ackman, people think they have to buy $3,000 in inventory before they start earning royalties. He called it an “inventory loading scheme.” He suggests that it’s only a matter of time before the company runs out of people to target.
Bill Ackman versus Carl Icahn
Ackman also called out fellow activist investor Carl Icahn, who he’s been feuding with for a long time. The two hedge fund managers have been facing off over Herbalife Ltd (NYSE:HLF), with Ackman taking a major short position and Icahn going long. After Ackman announced his major short position last December, shares of the company’s shares started falling, but then Icahn got involved.
“So far so good, until Carl Icahn came along and bought 16% of the company,” Ackman told the interviewer. “Said I was totally wrong, and it seems like every day he goes on CNBC and says what a great company it is, and every time he says it, the stock goes up another couple of dollars.”
Carl Icahn blasted Ackman’s methods earlier this year, saying that there’s something wrong with him but that the activist investing model itself is why his fund performs so well.