Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who said in March that “hell is coming” for the US economy, is now warning of another risk.
“Regardless of who our next president is, whether it’s President Trump or Biden, there’s going to be uncertainty, and uncertainty from a business point of view,” Ackman told CNN’s Christine Romans on Wednesday.
Investors have a lot to chew on with the Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented recession, the presidential election in November and renewed US-China tensions.
Ackman thinks it’s unrealistic to bet on a coronavirus vaccine before next year. As for the rest of 2020, the economic recovery will ebb and flow, he said, with rebounds at varying speeds across different parts of the country.
“My view is the second half of 2021 things are coming back to look normal,” Ackman told CNN.
Although companies in certain Wall Street sectors have deep enough pockets to withstand the current recession, smaller businesses are at great risk. These smaller companies are a crucial driver of the US economy and they need protection during this crisis, Ackman said.
But Ackman has at times been labeled a pandemic profiteer, after disclosing that his hedge fund Pershing Square made $2.6 billion during the March stock market rut. He was quoted in March warning that “hell is coming” for the US economy – after he made a substantial bet against the market.
His latest venture, a billion-dollar ‘blank check’ company that began trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday under the ticket PSTH.U’, raised $4 billion at $20 per share and traded up some 8% up during Wednesday’s session.
Now it’s unicorn hunting season for Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, the newly IPOed funding vehicle of Ackman’s hedge fund. The investment vehicle — or special purpose acquisition company — will merge with companies it wants to invest in and thereby take them public.
“It’s a way for us to take a private company public and to inject five billion dollars of cash into a private company, either to pay down debt, to accelerate growth, to buy out some investors who are looking for liquidity,” Ackman said.
The process is more efficient than a traditional IPO, which includes extensive regulatory filings and a roadshow, he added. And this isn’t exactly a great climate for an initial public offering.
“Uncertainty is the enemy of the IPO process,” he added.
Plus, “there are more privately owned family businesses that are worth $10 billion, and more now, than ever before in history,” which makes investing in a private company very appealing, he said.
A mature ‘unicorn’ – that is a more developed but innovative business – “is probably the sexiest category” to look at, Ackman said.