Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Hudson's Bay Soars on Heightened Urgency for Real Estate IPO

  • Chairman Baker says quick IPO needed, should have done sooner
  • Retailer is cutting expenses, revising capital spending plans

Hudson’s Bay Co. had its biggest gain in 16 months after the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue signaled it may take its real estate assets public, unlocking value for the Canadian retailer as same-store sales decline.

In a call with analysts Wednesday, Chairman Richard Baker showed a new sense of urgency when asked about his real-estate plans as U.S. interest rates rise. An initial public offering of a real estate investment trust has been a goal since Hudson’s Bay teamed up with REITS in the U.S. and Canada to create joint-ventures two years ago. At the time, Baker said he wanted to “fatten up the portfolio” first.

“We have a tremendously valuable portfolio of realestate, which could be monetized in a variety of ways,” Baker said on a call discussing quarterly results. “What we should have done and what we should be doing as quick as possible is IPO-ing our U.S. real-estate portfolio and/or IPO-ing our Canadian real-estate portfolio.”

Hudson’s Bay rose 8.3 percent to C$10.50 at 1:20 p.m. in Toronto, the biggest intra-day increase since November 2015. The stock earlier rose as much as 11 percent.

Baker has focused on turning merchants into real estate vehicles. Hudson’s Bay purchased Saks Inc. in 2013 and agreed to buy Metro AG’s Galeria Kaufhof stores for 2.83 billion euros ($3 billion) two years later. The Toronto-based firm formed two joint ventures with Simon Property Group Inc. and RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust in 2015 valued at about $3.4 billion then and then boosted by the Kaufhof stores.

Real Estate Value

In a call seven months ago Baker said third-party investors had valued the real-estate equity at C$6.5 billion ($4.8 billion). Wednesday he said the real-estate value “is still there,” even though the company would have been better off doing an IPO six or eight months ago. He also mentioned other ways to take advantage of the real-estate portfolio, for instance by selling a building.

Canada’s oldest retailer has been cutting costs and paring down capital spending plans as it grapples with a consumer shift away from department stores that’s hurting the industry across the board in the U.S. Management on the call said it was basing its plans on an unchanged U.S. market, after reporting a decline in comparable sales and normalized earnings that missed estimates.

Hudson’s Bay “has created value with its joint ventures, but we believe the company must surface this value through a public structure or provide an independent updated marker on the real estate to reinforce it,” Steven Salz, an analyst at M Capital Partners Inc., wrote to investors Wednesday.

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