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Stepping Out on Its Own, Real Estate Broker Finds Unfriendly Streets (NY Times)

Summary: Since being spun off from Cendant Corp., in July, Realogy Corporation's (H) shares have dropped more than 10 percent in the midst of a widespread and deep housing crisis (in August, home prices fell for the first time in 11 years). The company, which owns several real estate franchises including Coldwell Banker, Century 21, ERA and Sotheby’s International Realty is three times larger than its next largest competitor, RE/Max International and reported earnings of $1.2 billion last year for a profit margin of 16%. But with the end of one of the nation's best real estate booms in decades coinciding with Realogy's introduction as an independently-traded public company, there has been much speculation that Realogy will throw in the towel and de-list soon. This would allow the company more operating flexibility, without being under the constant close scrutiny of Wall Street. While the company has offered a tender to buy back 20% of its outstanding shares, private equity firms have been positioning themselves to snap up the company, which has little debt and a solid profit margin. CEO and vice-chairman Richard A. Smith believes it is still to soon to put the company onto the private market, considering the tax liabilities it would face if it were privatized too soon after its tax-free divestiture from Cendant. Says Mr. Smith, “Remember, the reason we did this [the Cendant breakup] was to increase shareholder value. The board will be obligated to consider taking Realogy private if the stock continues to struggle but it’s too early to come to any of those conclusions.”
Related links: Full articleHousing Bubble and Real Estate Market TrackerDoes Realogy Contain Real Value?Cendant Lobs Up a Fat Pitch in the Form of Realogy Corp.Cendant Spinoffs: Which One's Worth Owning?Why I'm Long RealogyFTC Action Strengthens Online Real Estate Sites
Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: iShares Dow Jones U.S. Broker/Dealers (IAI), PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction (PKB), SPDR Homebuilders (XHB), iShares Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction (ITB)

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Source: Faced With Growing Wall Street Scrutiny, Realogy Considers Going Private