Think commercial real-estate is dead? Think again. Blackstone's (BX) deal to buy Centro's US assets today is not Blackstone's first foray into commercial real estate. In fact, it isn't even the first this month. Blackstone has been pouring money into commercial properties, and benefitting quite handsomely along the way. Deals done in the last 6 months include:
Feb 28: Sources report Blackstone is the winning bidder for Centro's US assets, agreeing to pay $9.4 billion for 560 malls.
Feb 7: Took a 60% stake in Hotel del Coronado after restructuring the hotel's loan
October 18, 2010: Buys $1.02 billion worth of industrial properties from ProLogis.
October 9, 2010: Part of a group that purchased Extended Stay America out of bankruptcy for $3.9 billion.
August 2010: Buys Eaton Vance Management's (EV) 80% stake in a joint venture that owns 17 million square feet of warehouses in the US for $105 million plus the assumption of debt.
August 2010: Teams with Glimcher Realty Trust (GRT) to buy Pearlridge Center mall, in Hawaii, for $242 million.
Add into the mix that Blackstone also owns Hilton Hotels, and the investment firm is quickly becoming one of the largest owners of US commercial real estate. The firm is planning on raising a new real estate fund sometime this year, signaling it sees more opportunities in the space. Investors without the means to participate in Blackstone's fundraising should consider buying its publicly trade units. The barbarians really are at the gates.
Disclosure: I am long BX.