Monday, March 20, 2017

Carter Validus' Whisper Sale

On March 3, 2017, Reuters published an exclusive article stating that public, non-traded REIT Carter Validus was up for sale at a price tag of more than $3.5 billion.  The article cited unnamed people "familiar with the matter."  Carter Validus has not made any public filings to confirm or deny the article.  This would be great news if Carter Validus liquidates.  The Reuters article reads as though Carter Validus is shopping its data center properties and its health care properties to separate buyers.

I am skeptical of any transaction until I see a confirmation from Carter Validus.  It hired Goldman Sachs in 2015 to find liquidity but nothing happened.  Carter Validus is an established, fully invested REIT that continues to over pay its distribution.  According to its third quarter 10-Q, the REIT had overpaid its distributions in 2015 and for the first nine months of 2016.  For the first nine months of 2016 distributions were $96 million and modified funds from operation (MFFO) were $85.9 million.  (Carter Validus added a risk disclosure at the end of its third quarter 10-Q regarding the over payment of its distribution.) 

In addition to its distribution over payment, the REIT has about a third of its nearly $1 billion of debt in variable rate borrowings.  Interest rates have increased since November.  The thirty-day LIBOR rates have increased about 50 basis points over this time.  Carter Validus' third quarter 10-Q states that a 50 basis point increase in interest rates would increase the REIT's interest expense rate by $1.5 million per year.  The increased interest expense lowers amounts available for distribution.   The REIT has another $542 million of variable rate debt that is currently fixed using interest rate hedges.  These hedges expire between late-2017 and mid-2020.  If the hedged debt is not retired before the hedges expire, the REIT will have to buy more expense hedges to keep rates fixed or pay higher interest expense.

I state the last two items because under certain liquidation scenarios Carter Validus is going to have to deal with its distribution over payment.  Any buyer of the REIT will lower the current distribution.   As interest rates have increased capitalization rates have increased, too.  Cap rates and valuation are inversely related, so an increase in cap rates means a lower valuation for an underlying property.  (I have not seen an article on cap rates increasing, but have talked to real estate professionals who told me that cap rates have increased, but not at the pace of interest rates.)

I hope Carter Validus has a buyer(s) and executes a transaction soon. If Carter Validus liquidates its portfolio in two more more transactions, capital is going to come back in multiple payments, not one big lump sum payment.  

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