AT&T, Equity Capital Management Close on $72M Atlanta-Area Sale-Leaseback

AT&T walks away with a pocketful of cash and gets to stay put at its 407,000-square-foot digs in Tucker, Ga., with the completion of a $72 million sale-leaseback transaction orchestrated by Jones Lang LaSalle’s capital markets group. AT&T is now leasing the office complex (pictured), sited 20 miles northeast of Atlanta, from new owner Equity Capital Management under a long-term agreement. The deal for the property–known as the BellSouth Advertising and Publishing Corp. headquarters before AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of competing telecommunications company Bellsouth Corp. in early 2007–is just one of a bevy of sale-leaseback transactions AT&T has engaged in this year. Carrying the addresses of 2245 and 2247 Northlake Parkway, the office property is located off I-285 with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport about 25 minutes away, and Dekalb Peachtree Airport within a 15-minute reach. The three-story structure at 2245 Northlake was developed in 1980, and the 10-story 2247 Northlake opened its doors in 2000. Together, the buildings provide over 1,500 structured and surface parking spaces. Specific terms of the lease agreement have not been disclosed; however, the average rental rate for Class A office space is $21.39 in the Northlake submarket and $24.09 in Atlanta’s Central Business District, according to a second quarter report by real estate services firm Colliers International. Fully leased buildings in the current real estate market are highly coveted. “AT&T’s credit is obviously very attractive in any market, but it is particularly attractive in this market when people are keenly interested in the credit behind a lease,” Brad Armstrong, managing director with the Jones Lang LaSalle’s capital markets group, told CPN. But while most investors are drawn to the stable long-term income of such properties, not everyone can pull off such a deal, given the state of the lending market. “The bulk of the bidders were capital markets groups that had been identified as prospective buyers, “Armstrong said. “We did have unsolicited offers, but one of the keys we identified early on was to identify prospective buyers with the ability to go to closing. We put qualifying potential buyers and maximizing economics for AT&T first.” AT&T plans to use the proceeds from the sale of the Tucker property to fund core operations. The company has engaged in a bevy of sale-leaseback transactions over the last few months, and the recent transaction was its third in Atlanta this year. In May, again with Jones Lang LaSalle at the helm, AT&T sold and then committed to leasing its 1.1 million-square-foot Lenox Park property in Atlanta’s coveted Buckhead submarket in a $275 million deal with Wells REIT. And in July, the company wrapped up another deal with Wells REIT, selling its 995,000-square-foot Lindbergh Center in Atlanta. The sale-leaseback activity has not been limited to Georgia, however. Last week, AT&T relocated its headquarters from San Antonio to a 1 million-square-foot Dallas office building–originally acquired by subsidiary Southwestern Bell–and then sold the property to Icahn Enterprises, which is now the telecom giant’s landlord. Headquartered in Chicago, Equity Capital Management is a private equity real estate investment firm focusing on sale-leaseback and net lease transactions.