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Why Ackman invested $100K in these students

The Pershing Square Challenge winners
The Pershing Square Challenge winners

Hedge fund titan Bill Ackman is well-known for his outspoken investments in companies like Valeant and Mondelez, as well his very public and controversial bet against multilevel nutrition company Herbalife.

However, it's a recent investment in three Columbia Business School students that is grabbing the attention of some on Wall Street.

This week, the billionaire held the final elimination round to his "Pershing Square Challenge," a three-month competition that was launched by the Pershing Square founder and CEO in 2008.

Each year, roughly 40 teams consisting of first- and second-year Columbia Business School students compete to present their best investment idea and thesis to Ackman and a panel of judges. This year's panel included billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson and CNBC "Fast Money's" own Karen Finerman. The grand prize for the winning team was $100,000.

The 2016 winning team was a trio of female students — Melody Li, Joanna Vu, and Thais Fernandes — who pitched a plan to boost the stock of Canadian convenience store giant Couche-Tard.

Bill Ackman poses with winners of the Pershing Square Challenge at the Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing, Columbia Business School.
Source: Heilbrunn Center for Graham and Dodd Investing Columbia Business School.

The stock, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is down around 8 percent in 2016 and currently trading around $43 U.S., or $55 Canadian. The students have a two-year price target of roughly $66.50 U.S., or $84 Canadian — more than 50 percent higher than the current stock price.

The company has three key areas of opportunity: It's recession resistant, flies under the radar, and management has proven successful in the ever growing mergers and acquisition market, according to the students,

And it's that last point that attracted the eye of Finerman. The MBA students "talked about the acquisition runway and as [Couche-Tard] gets bigger they are so good at doing these sorts of rollups, and the evolution of the business from mom and pops to big chain stores is very attractive," she said this week on "Fast Money."

The company has more than 10,000 stores worldwide, with billions of dollars in acquisitions, according to the company website. The stock has a more than $25 billion market capitalization.