Friday, March 6, 2015

Gramercy: European Business, AM Fees, Likely Spin

Gramercy Property Trust (GPT, f/k/a Gramercy Capital) is a well known company to many value investors, it was a busted commercial mortgage REIT that was essentially in runoff mode and traded near cash ex-non recourse debt that was obscuring the value.  In came former W.P. Carey CEO Gordon DuGan and his lieutenants in the middle of 2012 to reshape the company as an office and industrial triple net lease equity REIT.  I covered it often in 2012-2013, since then it's continued on its path of raising capital, deploying it primarily into class B net lease properties, and creating additional value by utilizing the inherent operating leverage of spreading their expenses over a larger asset base.  It's morphed into your typical equity REIT now with a $2.3B enterprise value, why am I still holding it?  First, I have great respect for management and they're 2/3rds of the way through their incentive agreement that will pay the top 3 guys $20MM if they can hit $7 in 2015 (already there) and $9 in 2016.  Second, they've made a recent move into asset management (an area of interest for me in 2015) through the creation of Gramercy Europe which should effectively create additional leverage from external management and incentive fees.

Gramercy Europe
In past investor presentations the company has teased the idea of expanding into Europe as Gordon DuGan has had previous experience with that market through W.P. Carey (started up the business in 1998 for WPC).  The question from analysts had always been why?  Gramercy is a relatively small REIT, there should be plenty of runway here in the United States for the company to grow.  In December, the company announced the formation of Gramercy Europe Property Fund, a €350MM joint venture, through the purchase of ThreadGreen Europe (renamed Gramercy Europe Asset Management) which is also run by some former W.P. Carey executives and currently manages €146MM worth of net lease industrial and office properties.
Gramercy expects to list the company within 18 months as a separately traded entity that will be externally managed by Gramercy (think North Star's recent announcement of a European spinoff).  The European market looks attractive, many corporations still hold operating real estate on their balance sheets, there's less competition, and cheap interest rates.  Other players like North Star, Blackrock, and Colony Financial have been making opportunistic pushes into Europe as well.  Gramercy is going to keep its focus on class B assets in Europe as they do in the U.S., a pretty overlooked and boring market, but one with the capability of generating predictable solid returns.

They haven't publicly disclosed what the management fees will be, but Gordon DuGan slightly slipped up on the conference call this morning mentioning a 1% base fee before retracting and stating market rates.  While unlikely to be a meaningful driver in 2015, the combination of ROI on their €50MM investment plus the added bonus of management and incentive fees should help Gramercy reach that $9 management incentive payout target by middle 2016 (25-30% return in 18 months).

Gramercy is a pretty simple business to value currently, management has projected a $0.45-$0.50 FFO for the year, putting a 15 multiple on that gets you a $6.75-7.50 range of reasonable value, right where its trading at currently.  Using that same math, Gramercy needs a $0.60 FFO run rate to get to $9 share price, let's say $0.05 of the needed $0.10 comes from continuing to play the private/public market arbitrage game and adding to their U.S. net lease portfolio.  If the European fund can do $9.5MM in asset management fees annually it can add another $0.05 to FFO without issuing additional shares.  Assuming some incentive fees and some expansion to the €350MM initial target, the fund probably needs to double before it lists, the $9 target shouldn't be too much a stretch. 

My only disappointment, and its minor at that, is the CDOs.  Gramercy still holds the equity and some junior pieces in their three legacy CRE CDO transactions they sponsored as GKK from 2005-2007.  As they continue to issue additional equity, the optionality of those legacy CDO positions gets smaller and smaller to the point now they're just a drop in the bucket on a per share basis.  It would have been interesting to have seen them spinoff the CDOs or have created some kind of CVR when they switched strategies and isolated the CDO value.

Gramercy likely doesn't hold much appeal to readers anymore, but it should, watch out for the Gramercy Europe business, it might make things more interesting this time next year especially if they decide to spinoff the overall asset management business too.

[Note: There's a 1-for-4 reverse stock split coming soon, all amounts are pre-split if you're reading this after the split happens]

Disclosure: I own shares of GPT


  1. I floated the CDO CVR idea to Chris Demuth a couple years ago, since he was having regular interaction with management. Thought it would be a great way to create some incremental value for investors who just wanted the dividend. And - potentially - a fun instrument for those of us who got bored with a stable dividend REIT and bailed. Downside was expense and management time.

    Anyway, thanks for the update!

    1. Yeah it would have been an interesting security, I miss digging through the trustee reports but its just not worth the effort anymore. Both the 2005 and 2006 OC tests are slowly creeping up, the equity in those deals will end up being worth something, just will be nominal on a per share basis.