Economy

Ethan Roberts covers the weakness in office REITs over the past couple years in a Benzinga article and whether there is any opportunity to buy the dip. To recap, the sector’s struggles began due to the pandemic with remote work gaining in popularity, leading many companies to downsize or abandon their offices.

Not surprisingly, office REITs were crushed and their struggles were exacerbated by high interest rates. Many of these REITs dropped more than 50% and are trading below their March 2020 levels, despite the broader market being substantially higher. 

However, some contrarians are turning more optimistic on the sector. They believe that valuations have become very compelling especially given that public market valuations are much cheaper than private markets. Additionally, there are increasing signs that corporations are pushing back against remote work culture by insisting that workers must go to the office at least a couple of times per week. 

In addition to this, real-time metrics like metro ridership and miles driven also seem to confirm that more workers are returning to the office. Finally, with increasing cracks in the labor market and expectations that the unemployment rate will increase over the next year, workers have less leverage and may be forced to return to the office. 


Finsum: Office REITs have been crushed over the past couple of years due to the pandemic and high rates. Now, there are some reasons for optimism.

In an article for Seeking Alpha, Jussi Askola covered the aggressive buying of REITs by the Blackstone group and bullish comments from Steve Schwartzman and John Gray, who are the CEO and COOs of the Blackstone group, respectively. Their investment decisions are monitored due to their leadership of the private equity giant, and its successful long-term investing track record. Additionally, private equity groups are large owners of real estate, so they could have particular insight into the sector.

This is evident in public filings of REITs whose shares fell precipitously last year due to the rise in rates and weakness in real estate. The company has built up a portfolio of REIT assets, totaling nearly $30 billion. Essentially, the company sees a discrepancy between real estate assets in private and public markets with public markets offering more favorable valuations. 

And, it signaled on a recent conference call that it says more upside in other types of liquid real estate securities as other investors pull back from the asset class. And, they note that these opportunities present themselves in REITs that are exposed to strong sectors with no distress. One factor that may appeal to Blackstone is that many REITs currently have a nearly 30% discount to their market value. 


Finsum: Blackstone is being contrarian with its aggressive buying of REITs while most investors flee the sector.

 

Jonathan Brasse discussed a recent white paper from Swiss alternatives group, Partners Group, about why private markets are poised to grow faster than public ones over the next decade in an article for PEREnews.

In essence, Partners Group notes the changing landscape for private markets, and how they are playing a larger role in financing the ‘real economy’. Since 2016, funding on private markets has exceeded that of public markets. Last year, about $400 billion was raised on public markets, while more than $1 trillion was raised in private markets.

Another change is that companies raising on private markets are generally healthier and more profitable than ones listing on public exchanges. These trends are also evident in the real estate market.

Fundraising for real estate in private markets has been steadily growing, while the number of real estate IPOs has dwindled. In terms of future returns, real estate listed on private markets has a better chance to be renewed, repurposed, and transformed, while such expenditures are less common on the public side given the pressures of quarterly earnings and shorter time horizons of public investors. 


Finsum: Private markets have been overtaking public markets in terms of funding. This trend is also happening in real estate markets.

 

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