AZ Central – Real estate putting Arizona back on Wall Street’s radar

Arizona is becoming more relevant in the stock market again, thanks largely to real estate.
The number of public corporations headquartered in Arizona is growing for the first time in three years, helped by a spate of initial public offerings — including two so far this month.
Is it the start of a trend? That’s hard to say. There hasn’t been much of an overall spike lately in the number of U.S. companies selling shares for the first time despite a relentless climb for the stock market — the type of bullish backdrop that normally drives the new-issue market.
But the two recent deals and a third in April have boosted Arizona’s flagging list of public companies.
Those three new players come in addition to three other Arizona IPOs in 2012 and the relocation of a homebuilder to Arizona from Florida.
The Arizona public-company count will rise further if Sprouts Farmers Markets goes ahead with an IPO for which it filed preliminary papers late last week. The Phoenix-based chain, which has more than 150 natural/organic grocery stores spread across eight Southwestern states, is seeking to raise up to $300 million.
Add it all up, and it might help to soften the blow of US Airways’ pending corporate relocation from Tempe to Texas as well as the 2012 acquisitions of Scottsdale’s Medicis Pharmaceutical and JDA Software by out-of-state companies.
Having a bunch of local public-company headquarters affects more than just bragging rights. Corporate suites also bring highly paid administrative jobs, more ties with ancillary businesses, a broader mix of local leaders and greater support for charities in the area.
Communities benefit from an economic-development perspective, but potential investors in these companies should be cautious, especially as the stock market generally becomes more expensive as it continues to hit new highs.
American Residential Properties, which Thursday sold $288 million worth of shares in an IPO, is the state’s newest public company. With the addition of seven public corporations over the past 12 months, that gives the state 45, according to an Arizona Republic tally, after subtracting US Airways, Medicis and JDA Software, all of which continue to have operations here.
The recent activity gives Arizona a growing concentration of real-estate companies with shares trading in the stock market. Scottsdale homebuilder Taylor Morrison Home Corp. went public in April in the nation’s fourth-largest IPO for the year to date.
Including homebuilder Meritage Homes and Cavco Industries, which builds prefabricated housing, eight of the state’s 45 public companies have a real-estate slant. The list also includes Scottsdale-based Healthcare Trust of America, a large owner of medical-office buildings that went public in June, and InnSuites Hospitality Trust, which operates hotels.
The Arizona public-company count will rise further if Sprouts Farmers Markets goes ahead with an IPO for which it filed preliminary papers late last week. The Phoenix-based chain of more than 150 grocery stories spread across the eight Southwestern states is seeking to raise up to $300 million.
Three of the newer Arizona public companies — American Residential Properties, Healthcare Trust and Spirit Realty Capital — are real-estate investment trusts, or REITs. So is InnSuites Hospitality Trust. These entities don’t face corporate income taxes as long as they pay out nearly all of their income, 90 percent or more, as dividends. That explains why REITs offer higher yields than most stocks.
Unlike bond interest payments, dividends often rise over time as a company grows — another advantage. However, REIT dividends received by shareholders generally are taxable, even if the payments aren’t at the company level. Also, dividends can be cut.
Shares of Healthcare Trust last week were yielding 4.4 percent, highest among Arizona’s public companies.
A steady appetite among investors for dividend-paying stocks explains why some of these companies have been selling shares on Wall Street for the first time.
Renaissance Capital of Greenwich, Conn., reports that dividend-paying stocks represented 45 percent of all IPOs in the first quarter — the highest proportion since mid-2008. IPOs typically are fast-growing startups that don’t pay dividends but instead entice investors with the potential for lofty capital gains down the road, so the recent income focus is a switch.
Investment adviser Harry Papp of L. Roy Papp & Associates in Phoenix views IPOs with skepticism and, in particular, cautions investors not to get mesmerized by yields.
“With REITS, utilities and other high-dividend stocks, a lot of people are chasing yield,” he said. “In general, we think REITs are awfully expensive.”
Rather than IPOs, Papp prefers to buy shares in corporations after they have been trading awhile.
The recent influx of public companies is good news for Arizona, though the heavy concentration of real-estate firms might be a mixed blessing. If the state wants to diversify its economy more to mitigate those sharp cyclical real-estate swings, it would be nice to see more banks, consumer-products companies, manufacturers or other types of companies set up headquarters here.
Stephen Barnes of Barnes Investment Advisory in Phoenix cites the increase in real-estate companies, especially IPOs, as a sign that properties aren’t the screaming deals they had been fairly recently.
“These companies weren’t selling shares when their assets were cheap,” Barnes said. “We might have passed the best point to buy in this cycle.”

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