Delivering Alpha Real Estate Panel: Ackman, Sternlicht & Gray ~ market folly

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Delivering Alpha Real Estate Panel: Ackman, Sternlicht & Gray

Continuing coverage of CNBC & Institutional Investor's Delivering Alpha Conference, we're now shifting to the real estate panel featuring Pershing Square's Bill Ackman, Starwood Capital Group's Barry Sternlicht and Blackstone Group's Johnathan Gray.

If you missed it, we've also posted up notes from the other panels at the conference.

Bill Ackman (Pershing Square):  Ackman's been in the news recently regarding a new stake in Proctor & Gamble (PG) so naturally he addressed that first saying, "We think it's a great company ... it's a cheap stock, but it's cheap for a reason.  We own the stock, we like the company, we own about $1.8 billion in equity in options."

That's a lot when you frame it in the context of a $10 billion dollar fund.  Recently, Ackman was also saying his PG bet is the largest initial bet on a company he's ever made.  Many have postured that he'll look to shake-up management and examine splitting the business up.

Ackman also touched on his stake in J.C. Penney (JCP), whose shares have been in steady decline.  He argued that it's the only company that can make 15-20x return (seems awful high), attributing the sell-off to a PR problem versus fundamentals.

On the subject of real estate, he advocated buying single family homes, arguing that it's a good business and an "asset class where institutions are underrepresented."  For more from this investor, we just posted up Ackman's recommended reading list.

Barry Sternlicht (Starwood Capital):  He noted that there's enough debt financing and that spreads are tight.  He also pointed out that you don't really see foreign banks here.

Echoing Ackman, Sternlicht says they've been buying houses and thinks the market could even possibly be overbought.  On Europe, he thinks it's still the first inning there so if you get involved, you've got to buy and hold.  We've highlighted thoughts from Sternlicht before in investing lessons learned from Richard Rainwater.

Johnathan Gray (Blackstone):  They bought a lot of commercial real estate near the top of the market but said it's not painful because rents are improving (due to lack of new construction).  He believes there's some opportunity out there to buy things that others aren't interested in.  The caveat, is that financing is harder to obtain than in the past.

Blackstone obviously likes Ackman's notion of buying homes as that's what they've been doing.  Two thousand for $300 million, saying execution is key.  He especially seems to like European deals and thinks the continent is not going into an abyss.  In summary, he wants to buy hard assets at a discount to replacement cost.

Be sure to check out more insights from top investors from the conference:

- Best ideas panel

- Global opportunities panel

- Chase for yield panel

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