Activist investor urges Liberty Property Trust to consider selling itself, report says
Investor Land and Buildings has reportedly urged the Wayne-based real estate trust to consider a "range of strategic options including a full sale."
Liberty Property Trust, the developer of Comcast Corp.'s two Center City skyscrapers, is reportedly being pressed by an activist shareholder to consider selling itself as a way of boosting the company's worth in the eyes of investors.
Land & Buildings Investment Management LLC has urged the Wayne-based real estate trust to consider a "range of strategic options including a full sale," the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing unidentified people familiar with the talks.
Earlier this week, Liberty announced a plan to sell off its office holdings, which include 10 buildings at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia and stakes in the Comcast towers, to focus on its rapidly expanding business as an owner and developer of warehouses and distribution centers.
Land & Buildings, which owns less than 1 percent of Liberty, doesn't feel that plan will do enough to narrow the gap between its current share price and its "intrinsic value," the Journal reported.
Liberty's market capitalization of around $6.3 billion is thought to about 10 percent less than the value of its assets if they were to sell privately, according to estimates based on comparable transactions by Plymouth Meeting-based financial firm CenterSquare Investment Management.
"The public market isn't giving the company the same value for the real estate as the private market is currently willing to pay," Alex Snyder, a senior analyst with CenterSquare, said in an interview. "Selling would immediately close that gap and anybody holding Liberty's shares would benefit."
Land & Buildings wants to see Liberty sold "to that private market because the public market isn't paying enough," Alex Snyder, a senior analyst with CenterSquare, said in an interview.
Liberty spokeswoman Jeanne Leonard declined in an email to remark on the report, citing a policy of not commenting on market rumors or speculation.
Land & Buildings, based in Stamford, Conn., was founded by a former Citigroup managing director, Jonathan Litt. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Its past targets have included Philadelphia-based mall landlord Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, owner of the Cherry Hill Mall and a partner in the redevelopment of the Gallery at Market East shopping mall, which it began pressuring in 2014 to accelerate a plan that had begun the previous year to sell off its lowest-performing properties.
As of September 2017, when it sold the Logan Valley Mall in Altoona, PREIT had shed 17 properties, raising $750 million.
Land & Buildings is also known for pushing companies including Mack-Cali Realty Corp., Taubman Centers Inc. and Hudson's Bay, owner of the Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue department stores, to shift strategies.