S&P Places Pershing Square Ratings On Creditwatch Negative; Notes Drop In Valeant

Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square are having a no good, terrible week and today is no exception to that trend. Not only is Valeant under pressure, but Pershing Square’s publicly traded vehicle is also under heat, and it is now more so since S&P just put its debt rating on watch. See the latest news below.

S&P Places Pershing Square Ratings On Creditwatch Negative; Notes Drop In Performance (VRX)

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Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services today said it placed its ‘BBB’ issuer credit and senior unsecured issue ratings on Pershing Square Holdings Ltd. (PSH) on CreditWatch with negative implications.

“We placed the ratings on CreditWatch negative to reflect the substantial drop in PSH’s NAV over the past five months as a result of very weak investment performance,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Trevor Martin. NAV was $5.3 billion at the end of October 2015 and $3.8 billion on March 15, 2016, primarily because of the steep drop in Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ stock price. The Valeant stock price fell about 50% on March 15. As a result of the weakness in the portfolio since October, PSH’s debt to total assets has increased from about 15% to above 20%.

While debt as a percentage of total assets has increased materially beyond our original expectations, liquidity (as measured by free cash) has strengthened, and we believe management has taken proactive steps to respond to the turmoil. PSH’s investors were informed that the fund completed a block sale of Mondelez International shares on March 16, raising substantial free cash. Subsequent to the sale, the level of cash held in the fund exceeded total debt.

Effects of Valeant’s stock price on Pershing Square

Valeant’s stock price fell dramatically as the company again revised its earnings guidance for the next 12 months on March 15. Furthermore, the company has not reported its 10-K in time and is now seeking a waiver from banks on its credit agreements, introducing incremental risk of a bankruptcy to Valeant (although it has until the end of April to resolve the covenants in the credit agreement to avoid acceleration). In the event of bankruptcy, we would likely lower the rating.

“We aim to resolve the CreditWatch once we have more clarity on the situation regarding Valeant and we have reassessed the fund’s investment performance and leverage,” said Mr. Martin. “We expect to have the information to resolve the CreditWatch in the next 90 days, but we could extend the CreditWatch period if that is not the case.”

We could lower the rating if Valeant files for bankruptcy or if PSH materially reduces free cash before Valeant’s stock price has substantially recovered. Even if the position were to stabilize, we could still downgrade PSH if the investment performance of the portfolio as a whole deteriorates further.