Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg

Activist Pushes for Hudson's Bay to Sell Saks, Go Private

  • Land & Buildings says it may call for new board members
  • Litt urges Canadian retailer to consider exiting Europe

Activist Land & Buildings Investment Management said it may call for new directors at Hudson’s Bay Co. if the company ignores suggestions for unlocking value, including selling off Saks Fifth Avenue and potentially going private in a management-led buyout.

“If we do not see substantive progress on a plan to close the gap to underlying asset value, Land and Buildings may be left with no choice but to call a special meeting of shareholders to remove directors,” Jonathan Litt, chief investment officer of Land & Buildings, said in a letter Monday to Hudson’s Bay’s board.

Shares in Hudson’s Bay rose 1 percent to C$10.71 as of 12:15 p.m. in Toronto. The stock has fallen 35 percent in the past year.

“We welcome feedback from all of the company’s shareholders and look forward to continued dialogue with Land & Buildings,” Hudson’s Bay said in an emailed statement Monday. “We are committed to our strategy of both operating leading retail banners and also creatively unlocking the value of our associated real estate holdings.”

Land & Buildings, which said it owns close to 5 percent of Hudson’s Bay’s outstanding shares, has been pushing the Toronto-based retailer to explore ways of unlocking shareholder value. The Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund said it met recently with senior management and members of the board and that it became clear the company feels it’s looked at all the options to increase value.

Saks Redesign

Land & Buildings said it disagreed and has floated several scenarios to unlock value, including by reinventing the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship location in Manhattan by adding boutique retailers on the first three floors and redeveloping the upper floors to high-end condominiums.

It also urged Hudson’s Bay to explore returning to its roots in Canada, including by potentially selling Saks Fifth Avenue and by exiting Europe.

“The Saks Fifth Avenue banner would likely be in high demand from potential buyers, allowing the company to focus on the Canadian market it has long dominated,” Litt said.

He also urged the company to find ways to monetize its real estate joint ventures with Simon Property Group Inc. and RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, and said Hudson’s Bay should consider a management-led buyout.

“We continue to transform our business to optimize performance and pursue growth in North America and Europe,” Hudson’s Bay said in its statement. “Meanwhile, HBC has a strong history of successfully realizing underlying value of the company’s real estate assets, and has generated more than $3 billion in cash proceeds through these efforts. We are constantly evaluating additional opportunities to continue this track record of significant value creation.”

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