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By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Bill Ackman on Tuesday called embattled drug company Valeant Pharmaceuticals a "very valuable asset" but forecast that if the company's situation does not stabilize soon new management will be brought in or the company will be sold.
"It will be a messy fourth quarter and a messy first quarter but after that things should stabilize," Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management is Valeant's third largest owner said at the Harbor Investment Conference.
Valeant's share price has tumbled 68 percent since Ackman first bought the stock a year ago. Recently the company said it would have to restate earnings, delayed an earnings call and saw its chief executive return unexpectedly from a long sick leave.
Ackman said that Valeant has a portfolio of valuable products and cited its Bausch and Lomb unit as one of the company's jewels.
"Either management will restore confidence in the reputation of the company with the public and the investment community or they won't," Ackman said. "If they can't, then one of two things will happen. New management will be brought in or the business will be sold."
While trading in the stock has been volatile recently with investors worried about what may happen next, Ackman said that he expects more clarity soon.
Also chief executive Michael Pearson, who helped build the company, recently came back from an extended sick leave after battling pneumonia. Ackman has previously said publicly that he backed Pearson.
"A lot of the uncertainty will lift in the next weeks," he said referring to the earnings statement that is expected to be filed next week.
But Ackman conceded that Valeant is "the most contrarian stock investment you can own right now." (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Chris Reese and Miral Fahmy)