Ackman Presses for Strategy Changes at ADP

The activist investor says ADP could more than double its stock price if it cut staff and made better investments in technology.
Matthew HellerAugust 17, 2017

With a possible proxy fight looming, activist investor Bill Ackman unveiled a blueprint for a turnaround at ADP, saying the payroll processing giant could more than double its stock price in the next five years.

Ackman’s Pershing Square Square Capital Management hedge fund owns 8.3% of ADP and he has called for “transformational change” at the company. In a presentation Thursday, he said ADP needs to streamline and make better investments in technology.

“ADP is not a place today were the best technologists come out of school today and want to work,” he said.

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He also said ADP should cut staff, focus on innovations, integrate its recent acquisitions better and possibly sell off real estate to consolidate its 143 offices. “ADP’s margins are vastly below what they should be,” he complained, suggesting that its stock price could more than double in five years without a change in its dividend, capital structure or credit rating.

ADP has so far not been receptive to Ackman’s overtures — CEO Carlos Rodriguez even called him a “spoiled brat” — and it did not change its tune Thursday.

“We strongly disagree with many of the assertions made by Mr. Ackman in today’s presentation, which betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the current state of ADP’s business and strategy,” the company said in a news release. “He presented nothing that has not been analyzed by the board and management.”

According to Reuters, the two sides may be heading toward “one of the season’s most bitter proxy contests.” Ackman has proposed a minority slate of himself plus two independent directors and is considering pushing the board to make leadership changes.

“The ADP bet is critical for Ackman as he works to rebuild his reputation after two years of double-digit losses at Pershing Square which have prompted a number of investors, including pension funds, to pull their money out,” Reuters said. “This year, his funds are flat or losing a small amount of money.”

ADP stock fell 5.8 percent to $104.68 on Thursday, wiping out most of the gains it had notched since rumors of Ackman’s stake surfaced late last month.