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Ackman pitches Howard Hughes, citing management and real estate locations

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor William Ackman discussed real estate development company Howard Hughes Corp (HHC.N) at the Sohn Investment Conference on Monday, citing strong management and desirable locations as reasons why it should become more valuable over time.

Ackman’s $11 billion Pershing Square Capital Management, which has owned Howard Hughes since 2010, has an economic interest of 26 percent in the company, including swaps. Ackman is Howard Hughes’ biggest shareholder and serves as the board’s chairman.

Ackman touted the company’s prime locations, including Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, the Woodlands in Houston, Texas and Summerlin in Las Vegas. The company has enough cash on hand to meet all of its development funding commitments, Ackman said.

The company’s shares swung from a loss on the day to gains as Ackman spoke without notes and without looking at the slides behind him. But investors in the room were surprised that he had selected a long-term investment in his concentrated portfolio, having speculated he might discuss Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N), which he added last year.

Ackman praised Howard Hughes’ management team, including chief executive officer David Weinreb, saying he was properly incentivized to help the company’s stock price climb.

Weinreb owns warrants to buy 2.4 million of shares and recently committed to buying $50 million of new warrants when he exercises or sells that amount when they expire in November.

Ackman said Howard Hughes, formed in 2010 as a tax-free spinoff from General Growth Properties, is not well known and is working to introduce itself to investors through earnings calls and an upcoming investor day, its first.

In the past Ackman has told his investors that Howard Hughes shares are undervalued but should climb when there is more clarity on some bigger projects, like South Street Seaport.