Ackman Says He Probably Won’t Ever Sell Howard Hughes Investment

Bill Ackman, the billionaire activist hedge fund manager, reiterated that his Pershing Square Capital Management LP probably won’t ever sell its stake in Howard Hughes Corp.

Pershing Square is the second-largest shareholder in Howard Hughes, the owner of real estate including master planned communities that was spun off from General Growth Properties Inc. as it exited bankruptcy in 2010.

“It’s a platform -- you’re buying the assets at a discount, you get a great management team -- and if we can find other interesting things to do we’re going to deploy that capital,” Ackman said. “I don’t think I’ll ever sell Howard Hughes, I think I’ll own it forever.”

Ackman believes the property company is presently priced just for its New York City assets when fully developed “and you get the rest for free,” he said Thursday at the Harbor Investment Conference in New York, in response to a question. Ackman hasn’t yet made a scheduled presentation at the conference.

Howard Hughes, based in Dallas, has a market value of about $5.5 billion. Pershing Square owns about 9 percent of the shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Ackman sold all of his shares in General Growth a year ago, marking the end of one of Pershing Square’s most profitable investments. Ackman, 48, helped rescue General Growth from near-collapse by pushing it to file for bankruptcy in 2009, and was part of an investor group in its subsequent reorganization.

The effort “turned $60 million into $1.6 billion,” the hedge-fund manager told Bloomberg News in 2011, and contributed to his flagship fund’s net return of 29 percent in 2010.

Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management’s activist investment strategies have seen him clash with companies and governments. He has investments in drugmaker Allergan Inc. and animal-health company Zoetis Inc. and is waging campaigns against management at Herbalife Ltd., Air Products and Chemicals Inc., and the U.S. government over mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Activist investors generally acquire equity stakes in publicly traded companies and agitate executives and directors to make changes they believe will boost shareholder returns.

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