Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Ackman: Bloomberg will run for president, and win

Valeant's price hikes are not new: Analyst
Valeant's price hikes are not new: Analyst

Bill Ackman is known for going all-in on his investments, and he's putting it all on Michael Bloomberg.

Ackman likely won't be putting any actual money on this bet—Bloomberg sure doesn't need it—but he's certain the former New York City mayor and head of his eponymous company is going to run for U.S. president, and win.

"I would do everything in my power to get this guy elected," Ackman, the head of Pershing Square Capital, said at the Bloomberg Markets Most Influential Summit.

Bloomberg has been mentioned on multiple occasions as a potential late-comer to the race. Though he's politically independent, some suspect he would take a shot at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

"The window is now or never," Ackman said. "Bloomberg is going to run and is going to win president."

In other remarks at the conference, Ackman said Valeant is not the money-hungry pharma giant preying on sick people that its detractors make it out to be.

The company, in which Ackman took a $3.3 billion stake earlier this year, has come under fire amid reports that it is buying up cheap medications then jacking up the prices for those who need them.

However, Ackman said the company in fact is providing an important service to pharma by providing capital to the industry. He said Valeant buys medications from companies that already had invested big money into them, allowing those firms to continue to do work that Valeant makes viable.

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"Valeant believes they're not good at drug development, really coming up with new molecules and taking them all the way to the approval process," Ackman said at the Bloomberg Markets Most Influential Summit. "That historically has been a low-return business."

He pointed to the company purchasing the "female Viagra," called Flibanserin. Sprout developed the drug and had a difficult time getting it through the approval process. With Valeant's purchase, estimated at $1 billion, that drug will have an easier time being marketed and getting to people who need it, Ackman said.

However, he did not condone the practice of taking cheap drugs, buying them and then inflating the price.

Clinton has made the biopharma industry a favorite target in campaign speeches, saying the industry needs reform. The industry's stocks have tanked since.

"Fifty to 1 markup of some old drug...I don't defend that kind of behavior," Ackman said. "But I do think it's important this doesn't lead to regulation that changes that kind of innovation."

Valeant shares are down 35 percent during the row over its pricing practices, but Ackman called the company "the most undervalued" in his portfolio.