Ackman’s Pershing Square Increased Agilent Stake in Q3

This week, Pershing Square disclosed that it had increased its stake in Agilent Technologies (A) to 2.9 million shares in the third quarter. The total market value of this stake was around $223.5 million in the quarter. Activist investor Bill Ackman manages Pershing.

Pershing’s top bet in 2019

Agilent constituted 3.4% of Pershing’s total portfolio of publicly traded securities. Ackman is known for his contrarian investing strategy. However, he lost considerable money on a short position in Herbalife (HLF) last year. In the third quarter, Icahn Capital was HLF’s largest institutional investor. Famous fund manager Carl Icahn manages Icahn Capital. Icahn and Ackman had different views on HLF.

Ackman is also bullish on Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B). The activist investor thinks it’s undervalued. In fact, in the third quarter of 2019, Berkshire Hathaway was Pershing Square’s only “buy.” To learn more about Pershing Square’s holdings, read Pershing’s 13F: Bill Ackman Keeps His Bet on Berkshire.

Agilent’s performance

On a year-to-date basis, Agilent has risen 22.9% and outperformed the Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLV). XLV has gained 15.5%. Agilent’s rise is almost as high as the S&P 500 Index’s (SPY) 25% gain. The rally in the healthcare sector started in November. Prior to last month, it was the worst-performing sector after the energy sector. Agilent’s gains coincide with XLV’s rise.

Who agreed with Pershing?

In the third quarter, Harris Associates bought a fresh stake of around $223.9 million in Agilent. With 2.9 million shares, Harris was the largest institutional buyer of Agilent shares. Pershing Square was the second-largest institutional buyer.

In the third quarter, Goldman Sachs and Epoch Investment Partners also increased their stakes in the company by 1.8 million shares and 1.5 million shares, respectively.

Agilent’s top sellers

Contrary to Ackman’s views, Invesco Limited sold 4.4 million Agilent shares in the third quarter. It was the stock’s largest institutional seller. In the second quarter, Agilent constituted 0.2% of Invesco’s total portfolio of publicly traded securities. In the third quarter, this figure contracted to 0.1%.

Winslow Capital Management was the second-largest institutional seller of Agilent’s shares in the third quarter. It sold around 2.72 million shares and brought its portfolio exposure down to almost 0%. Winslow included Agilent’s shares in its portfolio in the fourth quarter of 2017.

In the third quarter of 2019, AQR Capital and Renaissance Technologies were the other largest sellers of Agilent’s shares. They sold around 1 million shares and 0.8 million shares, respectively. To learn more about Renaissance Technologies, read Renaissance Technologies: Analyzing Its Q3 13F.

Wellington Management was the fifth-largest institutional investor in Agilent’s shares in the third quarter. It sold 0.3 million shares. It’s been holding the company since 2010. In Wellington Management: Analyzing Its Top Holdings, we talk about its other biggest sale.