Land and Buildings is urging Liberty Property Trust to explore strategic alternatives, contending that a transaction will address the firm’s valuation gap.
“As a result of this substantial discount and the high-quality industrial portfolio the company possesses, we believe the board should immediately undertake a robust review of strategic alternatives,” the activist wrote in a Monday letter to the board.
Land and Buildings said it was encouraged by the $20 billion of industrial assets bought by Blackstone and Prologis over the past two months, noting that the acquisitions suggest Liberty’s net asset value is more than $60 per share, representing a more than 25% upside from current levels.
In response, Liberty Property said it “values input that may advance our goal of driving long-term shareholder value,” adding that its senior management engaged in “numerous discussions” with Land and Buildings to better understand their views and perspectives.
“While our board and management team believe Liberty’s recognized operational and development excellence, singularly focused on high-quality industrial assets in major logistics markets, best positions us to drive growth and enhance shareholder value, our board is mindful of its fiduciary duties and obligations to our shareholders, and is committed to taking actions that enhance value for all shareholders,” Liberty said.
Jonathan Litt’s Land and Buildings has been urging Liberty since October of last year to consider a range of options, including selling itself. At the time, the firm announced plans to cut office assets and focus on industrial spaces, but it did not indicate whether it would consider a sale.
“We are committed to the right long-term strategy for the business, which we believe is a 100% focus in industrial real estate,” CEO William Hankowsky said in October.
Yet Land and Buildings showed skepticism on Monday.
“We expect that your response to this letter will be that the board is executing upon its plan. However, the reality is that this plan has simply not worked – and time is running out,” the activist said.
“As such, we believe it is incumbent upon the board, consistent with its fiduciary duties to shareholders, to immediately evaluate the ability to close the substantial discount to net asset value through an exploration of strategic alternatives before other steps are considered – such as CEO succession planning – that could further delay appropriate value being realized,” Land and Buildings concluded.
Shares in Liberty have traded up 17% over the past 12 months.