What Is Bill Ackman’s Next Move With J.C. Penney?

What Is Bill Ackman’s Next Move With J.C. Penney?
Source: jcp.com/ jcpnewsroom.com

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) announced that the thorn in its side— Bill Ackman —resigned in the wake of the boardroom brawl he made public, but we’re left wondering what’s next. There are a few different possibilities that could happen, depending on what Ackman decides to do. And then there are questions about what the retail chain’s board will do next.

What Is Bill Ackman's Next Move With J.C. Penney?

Analysts at Citi and Northcoast Research are considering the possibilities.

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Ackman could sell his J.C. Penney shares

One of the possibilities is that Bill Ackman could sell off all his shares of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP), but as Citi analysts Deborah L Weinswig, Nathan Rich and Tiffany Kanaga point out, he can’t legally do that until Aug. 20 or later. That’s because as a former board member, he has knowledge about the retail chain’s second quarter results, which are due on that date.

He could sell after those results are released as long as legal counsel decides that he doesn’t have any non-public information about what the retail chain plans to do after his resignation. Ackman’s Pershing Square fund also has an agreement with J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) that doesn’t allow it to sell to an entity that would own more than 10 percent of the retail chain after the sale, so that restricts who he could sell his shares to.

Citi analysts see “a small chance” Ackman will unwind his stake in the company over the next several months. He currently has 17.7 percent direct ownership and 25 percent total ownership.

Ackman could launch a proxy battle

If Ackman does decide to keep his shares of J.C. Penney, he could turn to other shareholders and gather support for a proxy war. Northcoast Research analysts Jeff Stein and Sean Egan believe Ackman could continue to be vocal and even more aggressive in terms of the company’s decisions. Perry Capital said earlier this month that it sided with him, which puts two major activist investors at odds with J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP))’s board of directors.

George Soros however, has sided with the board. Together, the three activist investors hold about a third of the company’s shares. They will undoubtedly continue to pressure the board to do what they think is right in terms of maximizing shareholder value, and the board could be caught in the middle of these powerful players.

What about J.C. Penney’s board?

And then there are questions about what the department store chain’s board will do now that Ackman is somewhat out of the way. His big beef with the board was how long it was taking them to find the next permanent CEO, so the question now is when this will happen. Citi analysts believe it will be toward the end of the year and that interim CEO Myron Ullman “should stay on in some capacity.”

Northcoast analysts though, think J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) is running out of time and believe the company should have “a back-up plan” if it can’t find a suitable CEO or if it takes longer than expected to find one. Northcoast suggests that the company might even be considering closing “a significant number of stores” or even selling the company. The analysts at the firm note that the chain lost a lot of its financial flexibility when it took out the $2.25 billion term loan earlier this year. That loan is secured by the company’s real estate assets and could constrain its ability to monetize those assets in the future.

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