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Ackman Still Likes JC Penney Long, Herbalife Short

Ackman Still Likes JC Penney Long, Herbalife Short

Despite some volatility, Pershing Square's Bill Ackman remains as convinced as ever about his investments around JC Penney (NYSE: JCP) and Herbalife (NYSE: HLF). Roughly 8.4% of Pershing Square's capital is invested in JC Penney -- over 240 million shares -- while Pershing is short 20 million shares of Herbalife.

In an interview with Value Investor Insight, Ackman defended both positions.

JC Penney shares have been on a rollercoaster ride since Ackman became one of the company's largest shareholders. He brought in Ron Johnson from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in an attempt to turn the company around, but that effort has run into severe roadblocks.

Johnson's efforts to establish a model of “everyday low pricing” seems to have driven customers away, as same-stores sales have dropped over 30% in the last year. Meanwhile, Johnson's remodelling efforts (his store-within-a-store concept) have zapped the company of its cash, as the retailer has lost nearly $1 billion in the past year.

Earlier on CNBC, Martha Stewart defended Ron Johnson's plan. Stewart has partnered with JC Penney for a shop focused on her home goods. “I hope he's here to stay,” Stewart said. “It takes a while to change an institution.”

Ackman believes that if Johnson's strategy could take hold, JC Penney could earn $10 per share within five years. For comparison, rival Macy's (NYSE: M) is expected to earn $3.89 per share this year.

Meanwhile, Ackman's short bet against Herbalife has evolved into one of the most interesting battles on Wall Street in some time. Rival fund managers have taken the other side of Ackman's trade, most notably Carl Icahn, who purchased about 15% of the company.

But Ackman is steadfast, offering a refutations of arguments given by Herbalife bulls. For example, Ackman believes that if regulators were to ban Herbalife in the U.S., the company's international operations couldn't survive.

Shares of JC Penney were near flat heading into the close Wednesday, while Herbalife shares were down nearly 4%.


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