Consolidation possibilities in apartment REITs

|By:, SA News Editor

"It’s very hard to grow in size by doing one-off property acquisitions and one-off property developments,” says REIT analyst Jeffrey Langbaum of the M&A shopping spree for apartment REITs. “If you want to grow in earnest, a big portfolio is one way to do that. You’ve had companies taking advantage of those opportunities.”

Essex Property Trust (ESS +0.3%) is the latest with its reported $5B bid ($64-$65 per share, though it would probably not be all-cash) for BRE Properties (BRE -0.1%). The deal - should it happen - would add to $22B in apartment REIT purchases in 2013. Before the report of the bid, BRE traded at a 13% discount to its NAV, and next up on the block could be Home Properties (HME +0.6%) and Post Properties (PPS +0.9%), both of which also trade as discounts. A November 22 Citi report pegs Post's NAV at $58.16 vs. a current price $46, and Home's at $73.17 vs. a current $56.

Associated Estates Realty (AEC -0.3%) is another takeout possibility, says Sandler's Alexander Goldfarb, who estimates NAV at $21.90 vs. the current stock price of $16.33.

While investors have complained about BRE management's performance, apartment REITs in general have been under pressure amid rising rates this year even as business remains strong. "You have a lot of mismatch in the valuation of apartment buildings or apartment REITs,” says  “Long-term factors here are still very stacked on the side of solid growth.” says another analyst.

Others in the sector: Equity Residential (EQR +0.2%), AvalonBay (AVB +0.4%), UDR (UDR -0.7%), Apartment Investment and Management (AIV +0.4%), Camden (CPT -1.3%), Mid-America (MAA +0.4%).