What: Shares of NorthStar Realty Finance (NYSE:NRF) are rising today, jumping about 17% as of 11 a.m. ET after the company announced that it is considering a recombination with its external manager, Northstar Asset Management Group (NYSE:CLNS).
So what: In 2014, Northstar Realty Finance was split from its external manager. At the time, the pitch was that the split would create value for shareholders as Northstar Asset Management would be valued as an asset manager and get a higher multiple than the real estate assets. It was financial engineering at its best.
What actually happened, however, is that Northstar Asset Management received cold reception from the market, with shares down roughly 40% from the date of the separation. In addition, Northstar Realty Finance has seen its shares fall as investors worry that its expensive fee agreement with the external manager creates conflicts of interest between shareholders and company management.
In an 8-K, NorthStar Realty Finance said it hired UBS to advise it on a transaction that would bring the management company under the same corporate entity.
Now what: It's notable that the announcement comes at the same time Northstar Realty Finance is selling off assets to raise cash. The 8-K filing notes that the company sold $2 billion of assets in the fourth quarter, resulting in $900 million of cash proceeds.
It plans to use the cash to pay down debt, and repurchase shares. Cash proceeds would also help the company fund the acquisition of Northstar Asset Management, should it choose to go through with a recombination.