Bill Ackman Starts Activist Position in Alexander & Baldwin (ALEX) ~ market folly

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bill Ackman Starts Activist Position in Alexander & Baldwin (ALEX)

Bill Ackman's hedge fund firm Pershing Square has initiated a new activist position in Alexander & Baldwin (ALEX). Per a 13D filed with the SEC, Pershing has disclosed a 8.6% ownership stake in ALEX with 3,561,943 shares due to portfolio activity on March 21st. This comes after Ackman's other activist position in J.C. Penney (JCP) as well as his stake in Fortune Brands (FO).

Not a New Position?

While this appears to be a brand new position, Pershing also filed an amended 13F for the fourth quarter of 2010. And guess what all of a sudden appears? Shares of ALEX. At 2010 year-end, Ackman's hedge fund actually owned 172,001 shares. This position was previously unreported on their last 13F filing because they filed with the disclaimer of "confidential information has been omitted from this report and filed separately with the Commission."

Ackman obviously did this in order to stealthily accumulate his position. Because let's face it, had he been forced to disclose the tiny new position back in February, the imitators who mimic his every move would have seen this new position and driven prices. Pershing accumulated most of their stake in March. To see the rest of Pershing's investments, head to our Hedge Fund Wisdom newsletter.

Working With Marcato Capital Again

Also worth highlighting in Pershing's new activist stake is the fact that they will be working with fellow hedge fund Marcato Capital again. Marcato was founded by ex-Pershing analyst Mick McGuire and he had previously recommended shares of Landry's Restaurants to Pershing and the two worked together on the activist position.

They've teamed up again on shares of Alexander & Baldwin and Marcato owns 1.3% of ALEX with 551,881 shares. Collectively, the two hedge fund firms together now own 9.9% of the company. Their average purchase price seems to be around $41.xx per share given they spent $168.8 million on the stake.

Additionally, the hedge fund firms have exposure to 372,900 shares via total return swaps. These have a price of $45.12 per share and their ownership stake inclusive of these jumps to around 11% of the company. Overall, the SEC filings contain the standard activist boilerplate regarding talking to management about enhancing shareholder value. We'll have to see what tricks Ackman and McGuire have up their collective activist sleeves.

Per Google Finance, Alexander & Baldwin is "engaged in property development and agribusiness operations. The Company’s wholly owned subsidiary Matson Navigation Company, Inc., together with its two subsidiaries, is engaged in ocean transportation operations, related shoreside operations in Hawaii, and intermodal, truck brokerage and logistics services. The Company operates in five segments in three industries: Transportation, Real Estate and Agribusiness."

To learn more about this hedge fund, check out our profile of Pershing Square.

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