The Internet is flooded with news about real estate investment trusts, or REITs. But with so much information to sort through, it makes finding those truly game-changing and stock-moving stories that much more difficult. To help sort out the noise, here are three news stories from October that impacted the sector.
3. SL Green Realty (NYSE:SLG) sells five properties
As of Sept. 30, New York City's largest office landlord had interest in 121 Manhattan properties totaling 43.2 million square feet. However, SL Green's footprint got a bit smaller this October as the company sold off five properties for a combined $1.25 billion.
The property sales were done to help fund a $2.29 billion acquisition made this past August for 11 Madison Ave. The building is a massive 29-story and 2.3 million square foot trophy office tower taking up an entire city block in Manhattan.
The real story is the power of scale. Many REITs do not have the resources to make a deal like 11 Madison happen, but those that do generally need to issue a ton of new shares of stock, or take on loads of debt. This is because REITs are required to distribute 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, which leaves companies with little organically generated cash on hand. SL Green added $1.4 billion worth of debt to fund the deal, but because of the company's scale, it can sell off lesser properties, recycle some of its capital, and lighten the load. As an investor, you should always be on the lookout for competitive advantage, and, for REITs, established size is a big one.
2. Equity Residential (NYSE:EQR) unloads 72 properties
On October 26th, the U.S.'s largest owner of apartments followed SL Green in a big way by selling off 72 apartments to Starwood Capital Group for a combined $5.37 billion. Equity Residential's deal was part of a strategic shift. The company sold apartments primarily in South Florida and Denver to continue to concentrate on their core markets of New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and a few other high-profile cities.
Unlike SL Green, the profit from the dispositions will go toward a special dividend the company is predicting will be between $9 and $11 dollars; a massive payout for a $78 stock. However, keep in mind that the company will own about 18% less real estate, and that will impact future earnings. But it's not over yet, this will be something to watch, as Equity Residential plans on selling 26 more properties in 2016 to completely exit smaller markets, and focus exclusively on the U.S. top real estate markets.
1. Digital Realty (NYSE:DLR) completes Telx acquisition
The final story was Digital Realty completing its $1.89 billion acquisition of Telx on October 12th. The acquisition was originally announced in mid-July, and from the onset the deal made sense.
The $10 billion Digital Realty focuses primarily on wholesale leasing of data center space. Essentially, Digital Realty provides the power, and companies lease large chunks of space within the data center and they manage their own equipment. Telx operates on the retail colocation side of the data center business. They lease space in smaller portions, and manage the customer's equipment for them. The deal doubles Digital Realty's footprint in colocation, and improves the scale and services they can provide. Adding to why this deal makes sense, Telx is one of Digital Realty's top tenants. In fact, 11 of the 20 facilities Telx operates out of are owned by Digital Realty.
There is some concern that Digital Realty is getting away from what they do best. However, following the merger wholesale is still projected to account for 77% of Digital Realty's business; this is down from 93%. Ultimately, although the business line is different, Digital Realty is staying in their core competency while opening new growth avenues; I see this as a big win.
What to watch
Anytime companies merge its interesting to see how they are integrated. And this is why Digital Realty is worth keeping an eye on. But the story I am more interested in following is Equity Residential.
Over the last decade, the company has added $10 billion in assets. However, those properties have been scattered across the country. Today, the company is taking a step back, and refocusing on building a portfolio of apartments in the strongest real estate markets. I mentioned competitive advantage earlier, and while scale is important for REITs, it's all about location, location, location. Equity Residential already has a one-of-a-kind portfolio, but if all goes according to plan it could get just that more special.