Pocketing $387M, SL Green Becomes Latest REIT to Raise Equity Via Public Offering

SL Green Realty Corp. has jumped on the bandwagon of REITs that, facing credit markets that are frozen like a block of ice, have opted to raise funds through public offerings. The company, which is still New York City’s largest office landlord, just walked away with net proceeds of approximately $387.4 million after selling 19.55 million shares of common stock. SL Green’s shares were offered at $20.75 each, representing quite a premium over the company’s lowest share price of $7.75 within the last 12 months, but a far cry from the high point of $101.07 during that period. No commercial real estate concern can say that its stock has returned to the high values seen just 18 months ago, but SL Green is faring better than some other REITs. The company reported $263.4 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2009, compared to approximately $253.4 in the first quarter of 2008, and after announcing its public offering, its status was upgraded from sell to hold by brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc. Additionally, although sizable new leases are quite a rarity these days, SL Green managed to orchestrate a deal last week with accounting firm Marcum & Kliegman L.L.P. to take 67,200 feet at the REIT’s 750 Third Avenue office tower in Manhattan; the transaction marked the largest tenant relocation lease in Midtown Manhattan so far this year. Proceeds from SL Green’s offering will be used for general purposes, as well as for capital purposes that could include investment activity, the occasional acquisition of its subsidiaries’ indebtedness in the open market, and the paying down of debt at appropriate maturity dates. SL Green did not return calls by press time. Other REITs that have recently turned to public offerings in an effort to obtain quick cash–predominantly for debt reduction–include shopping center REIT Regency Centers, which pocketed $310.5 million on its sell of 10 million shares of common stock in late April. Early last month, leading distribution facilities provider ProLogis brought in a whopping $1 billion with its public stock offering of 152 million shares. And in late April, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust announced it had priced an underwritten public offering of 5 million common shares of beneficial interest at $21.40 per-share, with hopes of raising over $100 million to repay outstanding borrowings under its line of credit and for general corporate purposes.