Hedge fund manager extraordinaire David Einhorn revealed a stake in Macy's Inc (M 0.96%) on Tuesday, arguing that the department-store chain could be a target for a takeover or a REIT spinoff.. The size of the stake was not revealed. In a letter to investors in his Greenlight Capital fund, he said, "It wouldn't surprise us if a private equity firm teamed up with a REIT to buy the company and unlock the value privately."
Macy's shares jumped after the news broke, bucking the broader selling in the market. The bounce was a welcome respite for a stock that fell more than 50% from its peak this summer amid a decline in comparable sales and scaled back earnings forecasts. Macy's stumble also comes as a regrouped J.C. Penney Inc (JCPN.Q) has recovered from the Ron Johnson era and is now taking share from Macy's.
Does it matter?
Investors tend to cheer whenever a high-profile fund manager jumps into a stock, but Einhorn's record has been mixed of late as his fund lost 20.2% in 2015. Still, that was only his second losing year in 20.
He's not alone in his thesis on Macy's. The venerable department store chain is a potential asset play as the company is sitting on valuable properties at the hearts of the nation's biggest cities. Starboard Value, another Macy's investor, claims that its real estate is worth $21 billion, or nearly twice its market cap of $12.5 billion. The value of its flagship Herald Square flagship location in New York is estimated to be $3 billion to $4 billion, and those properties separate the company from rivals like J.C. Penney that don't have the same presence in urban markets.
The retailer has already taken steps to unlock its real estate value, selling the top five floors of its nine-story Downtown Brooklyn store for $170 million to a developer. However, the company has resisted calls to from a REIT, rejecting it as an option in its most recent earnings report. Instead, the company sees itself evolving into an omnichannel retailer.
Ultimately, Einhorn's stake in Macy's will only have as much effect on the stock as his ability to bring about a REIT conversion or a buyout, which seems slim at this point considering Starboard's calls have fallen on deaf ears. Still, the investment acts as a bottom on a battered stock as value investors are clearly smelling opportunity here.