“Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Real Estate Investment Trusts (“REITs”) are endlessly inventive. They were first developed in the 1960s as a means for ordinary retail investors to hold interests in real estate. The REIT market has waxed and waned over the years. During the early years of the Great Recession, 2008-2009, REITs surged in popularity due to their dividend yields, among other things, then they slowed down but 2013 has been an excellent year for REITs.
REIT market participants have started de novo REITs, including equity REITs and mortgage REITs, or have converted existing organizations into REITs. Both new REITs and private REITs have filed registration statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) for proposed initial public offerings. 2013 is simply another chapter in the evolution of REITs.
A REIT is an investment vehicle designed to allow investors to pool capital to invest in real estate assets. It has certain advantages over other investment vehicles; in particular, a REIT is entitled to pass-through taxation even if its equity is publicly traded. Investors seeking current distributions choose to invest in REITs because REITs must distribute 90% of their taxable income in order to maintain REIT status. REITs generally finance their activities through equity and debt offerings. Although there is an active private market for REIT securities, REIT sponsors often have chosen to pursue IPOs.
There are now many different flavors of REITs. Most broadly, there are equity REITs that own primarily interests in real property and mortgage REITs that own primarily loans secured by interests in real property. Equity REITs typically lease their properties to end users and may concentrate on a market segment, such as office, retail, commercial or industrial properties, high end or middle market segments or a specific industry segment such as health care or malls or lodging. Mortgage REITs may also have a focus on particular types of loans (first mortgages, distressed property mortgages, mezzanine financings) or borrowers. Hybrid REITs are relatively rare and own a combination of equity and mortgage interests in real property. At December 31, 2012, there were 139 equity REITs with equity market capitalization of $544.4 billion and 33 mortgage REITs with equity market capitalization of $59.0 billion (Source: NAREIT®).
Most companies must make legal and operational changes before proceeding with an IPO. A company cannot wait to see if its IPO is likely to be successful prior to implementing most of these
Mortgage REITs are playing a critical role in enhancing residential and commercial real estate liquidity, particularly in light of the ongoing dislocation in the primary and secondary mortgage markets since the Great Recession. As such, the number of publicly traded mortgage REITS has grown from 20 at the end of 2008 to 35 at September 30, 2013 (Source: NAREIT®). Mortgage REITs must comply with all of the requirements applicable generally to REITs, which we describe in this Guide, and also must satisfy additional conditions. Mortgage REITs rely on the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940, which generally excludes from the definition of investment company any person who is primarily engaged in, among other things, “purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” In order to qualify for this exemption, a mortgage REIT must comply with strict asset tests, including having at least 55% of its assets consist of mortgages and other liens on, or interests in, real estate that are the functional equivalent of mortgage loans (including certain mortgage-backed securities), referred to as “qualifying assets,” and at least 80% of its assets consist of qualifying assets and real estate-related assets. Over time the Staff of the SEC has provided guidance in the form of no-action letters regarding the types of securities that it would deem to be qualifying assets. The SEC closely monitors reliance by mortgage REITs on this exemption.
There are potential regulatory risks for mortgage REITs. Due principally to the SEC’s concerns regarding the use of leverage by mortgage REITs, in August 2011, the SEC issued a Concept Release (Release No. IC-29778) to solicit public comment on whether mortgage REITs should be regulated as investment companies subject to the Investment
Company Act. This would subject mortgage REITs to numerous operating restrictions, including leverage limits. Many mortgage industry participants, including the Mortgage Bankers Association and NAREIT, commented unfavorably on the Concept Release, and, to date, the SEC has not taken further action.
In addition, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act amended the Commodity Exchange Act to add a definition of “commodity pool” under Section 1a(10), which provides that any investment trust, syndicate or
similar form of enterprise operated for the purpose of trading in commodity interests is a commodity pool. Commodity interests now include swaps. Prior to the Dodd-Frank Act, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) had issued no-action relief to the directors of mortgage REITs using futures and options to mitigate interest rate risk. As mortgage REITs use swaps in the ordinary course of business, these provisions and the related CFTC rules raised concerns that mortgage REITs could be regulated
as “commodity pools.” In response to numerous requests for relief, in December 2012, the CFTC’s Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight issued an interpretive letter (CFTC Letter No. 12-
44) that mortgage REITS were, in fact, commodity pools, but that the CFTC would not take enforcement action against the operator of a mortgage REIT if it did not register as a commodity pool operator if it satisfies enumerated conditions. Relatedly, given that commodity pool operators are considered “financial entities” under the Dodd-Frank Act, mortgage REITs would not be considered end-users for purposes of the new regulatory framework for derivatives and would not be able to claim an exception from the clearing requirement for their swaps.
changes. Many corporate governance matters (including those arising under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act), federal securities law requirements, as well as applicable securities exchange requirements, must be met when the IPO registration statement is filed, or the issuer must commit to satisfy them within a set time period.
A company proposing to list securities on an exchange should review the governance requirements of each exchange, as well as
their respective financial listing requirements, before determining which exchange to choose. A company must also address other corporate governance matters, including board structure, committees and member criteria, related party transactions, and director and officer liability insurance. The company should undertake a thorough review of its compensation scheme for its directors and officers as well, particularly its use of stock-based compensation.
Most public REITs are organized in Maryland as either a corporation or a trust because Maryland has a special REIT law and is perceived as business-friendly to REITs. This is in contrast to operating companies, which typically incorporate in Delaware if they are preparing for an IPO.
See “Roll-ups and UPREITs” for an introduction to complex issues involved in forming a REIT, particularly if the REIT is created by combining
In general, a REIT is able to offer publicly traded equity taxed interests through an IPO without altering the tax treatment of the REIT. The issuer and underwriter will need to perform a substantial amount of due diligence to confirm that the issuer is and will be eligible to be taxable as a REIT, including confirmation that the issuer will satisfy the asset and income tests and the distribution requirements and will not engage in any prohibited transactions. The issuer will also be required to satisfy
a number of technical requirements such as having at least 100 shareholders. If the issuer qualifies as a REIT, its income generally will not be subject to tax at the REIT level but instead each of its shareholders will be taxed on amounts distributed by the REIT.
In order to maintain REIT qualification, a REIT must satisfy several tests regarding the nature and value of its assets. Generally, these tests must be satisfied at the end of each calendar quarter of each tax year of the REIT, subject, in certain circumstances, to a 30-day grace period. At least 75% of a REIT’s assets must consist of “real estate assets” (such as ownership or leasehold interests in real property or mortgage), cash, cash items, and government securities. No more than 25% of the value of a REIT’s total assets can consist of securities of a taxable REIT subsidiary (“a TRS”), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of a REIT that is taxed as a regular C corporation. No more than 5% of the value of the REIT’s assets may consist of securities of any one issuer, other than a TRS, and a REIT may not hold more than 10% of the voting power of any one issuer or more than 10% of the total value of the
outstanding securities of any one issuer (other than a TRS).
At least 75% of a REIT’s gross income must be attributable to real property, such as “rents from real property.” In addition, at least 95% of a REIT’s gross income must consist of income items qualifying for the 75% income test as well as dividends, non-mortgage interest and gain from sales of stock and securities. Thus, only 5% of a REIT’s gross income can come from categories (such as service income) not qualifying for the 75% or 95% income tests.
multiple separate real estate holding entities. The SEC has extensive guidance on the disclosure and accounting requirements for these formation transactions.
Primary and Secondary Offerings An IPO may consist of the sale of newly issued shares by the company (a “primary” offering), or a sale of already issued shares owned by shareholders (a “secondary” offering), or a
combination of these. Underwriters may prefer a primary offering because the company will
retain all of the proceeds to advance its business. However, many IPOs include secondary shares, either in the initial part of the offering or as part of the 15% over-allotment option to purchase
additional shares granted to underwriters. An issuer must also consider whether any of its shareholders have registration rights that could require it to register shareholder shares for sale in the IPO or thereafter, affecting the aftermarket for the shares.
Governance and Board Members
A company must comply with significant corporate governance requirements imposed by the federal securities laws and regulations
and the regulations of the applicable exchanges, including with regard to the oversight responsibilities of the board of directors and its committees. A critical matter is the composition of the board itself. All exchanges require that,
In general, a REIT must make qualifying distributions equal to 90% of its taxable income in order to maintain its REIT qualification. A REIT can elect to retain its capital gains and pay tax on the gains, then treat the gains as
if distributed to its shareholders, with the shareholders receiving a credit against their taxes for the tax paid by the REIT. Many REITs offer dividend reinvestment programs to their shareholders.
If a REIT engages in a prohibited transaction, the gains from that transaction are subject to a 100% tax. A prohibited transaction is the sale or other disposition of property held primarily for sale to customers in the
ordinary course of business. REITs can avoid prohibited transactions by ensuring that any potential transactions meet certain “safe harbor” requirements.
In the process of converting from a corporation to a REIT, built-in gains with respect to assets transferred from the corporation to the REIT may be subject to tax. The direct or indirect transfer of property by a C Corporation to a REIT will cause the REIT to be taxable as a C Corporation on any net built-in gain of the property transferred to the REIT if such property is sold during the 10-year period following the date of transfer. However, the contributing C
Corporation may make a deemed sale election pursuant to which it would be required to recognize its distributive share of the built-in gain on the date the property is transferred by the C Corporation to the REIT as if the property were sold for its fair market value. Similar rules
may apply to a partnership that transfers property to a REIT if the partnership has direct or indirect corporate partners.
Careful tax planning is required to address these concerns.
The REIT Investment Diversification and Empowerment Act of 2007 (“RIDEA”) was signed into law in July 2008, enabling health care REITs to structure their investments similar to hotel REITs. Rent received from a corporation in which a REIT owns 10% or more of the total voting power or total value of shares are excluded as “rent from property” under the income tests described above. Hotel REITs are exempt from this rule if they use an eligible independent contractor to manage the hotel facilities. After the enactment of RIDEA, health care REITs are similarly exempt.
UPREITs and Roll-ups
The most common operating structure for publicly traded equity REITs is the UPREIT structure. In the typical UPREIT, the partners of the partnerships and the new REIT become partners in a new partnership termed the Operating Partnership. For their respective interests
in the Operating Partnership (“Units”), the partners contribute the real estate assets owned by them or their interests in the entities that own such real estate assets from the partnership and the REIT contributes the cash proceeds from its public offering. The REIT typically is the general partner and the majority owner of the Operating Partnership Units. The allocation of the Units based on the properties being contributed can involve significant analysis and negotiation. The UPREIT structure allows tax deferral while providing a kind of “on demand” liquidity. After a period of time (typically one year), the partners may enjoy the same liquidity as the REIT shareholders
by tendering their Units for either cash or REIT shares (at the option of the REIT or Operating Partnership). This conversion may result in the partners incurring the tax deferred at the UPREIT’s formation. The Unitholders may
tender their Units over a period of time, thereby spreading out such tax. In addition, when an individual partner holds the Units until death, the estate tax rules usually permit
the beneficiaries to tender the Units for cash or REIT shares without paying income taxes.
A REIT can either acquire a property or mortgage loan or other real estate asset directly or through a “roll-up”
process in which the REIT acquires the entities (partnerships or limited liability companies) that own the real estate
asset in exchange for securities of the REIT or its Operating Partnership. As noted above, the UPREIT structure provides tax deferral advantages. From the securities side of the transaction, the question is whether the REIT is conducting an offering of its securities to the holders of the interests
in the entities. The REIT could effect the roll-up transaction as a registered offering separate from the IPO. However, this approach is not typical as registering a roll-up involves significant time and expense. The more common process is
one or more private placements by the REIT to the holders of the assets. This process requires careful structuring and, in the past, the private placement process had to be essentially complete before the IPO was publicly filed. The concern was that the private offering of the Units in a roll-up transaction could be integrated with the REIT IPO and could lead to application of the SEC roll-up rules (as discussed below) and securities liability for failure to register the Units.
In recent years, there has been some liberalization with respect to what constitutes REIT assets and income under IRS standards. The IRS has approved REIT status for businesses not traditionally associated with the REIT structure, such as data centers, timber, document storage facilities, cell-phone towers, casinos, private correctional facilities and billboards. Because of the tax benefits
of a REIT and the growing market for dividend-paying securities, there also has been an increase in interest in REIT conversions by corporations. However, due to the requirements to qualify as a REIT and to maintain REIT status discussed above, converting into a REIT is a
complicated process and requires careful consideration and significant restructuring. In mid 2013, the IRS indicated that it is reviewing its legal standards and may not issue additional private letter rulings until the review is complete.
Non-traded REITs are REITs whose common stock is registered under the Securities Act of 1933 (the
“Securities Act”) but is not traded on a national securities exchange. A non-traded REIT’s securities usually have
a limited secondary market and their value does not typically change with the market. Because a non-
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, in response to concerns about sponsor abuses in structuring public real estate rollups, the U.S. Congress and California passed specific roll-up legislation, the SEC issued targeted roll-up disclosure requirements, and the NASD (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or “FINRA”) issued roll-up
guidelines, all of which were designed both to give investors necessary information about the transaction and to lessen the coercive effects of the offering. The SEC definition of a “roll-up transaction” has specific exclusions that often now are relevant. But if the exclusions are not
applicable, in addition to the requirements of Form S-11 and Guide 5, the SEC will require significant additional disclosure, including about the properties being contributed (including separate supplements for each partnership), additional risk factors and disclosures regarding conflicts of interest, statements as to the fairness of the transaction to the investors in the partnerships, including whether fairness opinions are being rendered, explanation of the allocation of the roll-up consideration and pro forma financial information.
If the transaction is a limited partnership roll-up, in addition to the requirements of Form S-11 and SEC Industry
Guide 5, Section 14(h) of the Exchange Act and Items 902 through 915 of Regulation S-K will require significant additional disclosure on an overall and per partnership basis, addressing changes in the business plan, voting
rights, form of ownership interest, the compensation of the general partner or another entity from the original limited partnership, additional risk factors, conflicts of interest of the general partner, and statements as to the fairness of the proposed roll-up transaction to the investors, including whether there are fairness opinions, explanations of the allocation of the roll-up consideration (on a general and per partnership basis), federal income tax consequences and pro forma financial information.
There have been few public roll-up transactions in recent years and most roll-up transactions currently are conducted as private placements, particularly following the SEC’s 2007 interpretive guidance (Release No. 33-8828) on public/ private integration issues. The new rules promulgated under the JOBS Act that allow general solicitation and advertising in certain private securities offerings under Rule 506 and Rule 144A so long as the securities are sold to accredited investors or qualified institutional buyers (“QIBs”) also lessen the securities law integration risk.
Any roll-up transaction, whether or not it meets the SEC and FINRA definitions, will have complex accounting and structuring issues that must be addressed with the
accountants and counsel early in the IPO planning process, including relating to predecessor presentation and pro forma issues.
traded REIT does not have to satisfy the earnings and capitalization requirements of an exchange, they are particularly useful in blind pool capital raises where the specific real properties to be acquired are identified after the capital raise based on a predetermined investment strategy. Therefore, the reputation and past experience of the sponsor or the general partner is critical in
such cases because an investor will make investment decisions based on that information. Additionally, offerings for non-traded REITs usually are done on a best- efforts basis.
In August 2012, FINRA alerted investors about the greater risks associated with non-traded REITs than traded
REITS, noting the following risks:
• Distributions are not guaranteed and may exceed operating cash flow.
• Lack of a public trading market creates illiquidity and valuation complexities.
• Early redemption is often restrictive and may be expensive.
• High front-end fees that can be as much as 15% of the per share price.
The SEC Staff has also expressed concern about the valuation of non-traded REITs and has also issued guidance regarding distributions, dilution, redemptions, disclosures and estimated value per share.
Emerging Growth Companies (“EGCs”)
The April 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (“JOBS”) Act amended the Securities Act and Exchange Act to include a new type of issuer called an emerging growth company (an “EGC”). An issuer qualifies as an EGC if it has a total gross revenue of less than $1 billion during its most recently completed fiscal year (subject to inflationary adjustment
by the SEC every five years). An issuer will not be able to qualify as an EGC if it first sold its common stock in an SEC- registered offering before December 8, 2011.
A company that elects to file as an EGC would benefit from the following:
• Confidential submission of the draft IPO registration statement to the SEC for nonpublic review (See “The Pre- Filing Period” below);
• Disclosure of only two years of audited financials (instead of three);
• No requirement to include financial information in selected financial data or in MD&A disclosure for periods before those presented for the IPO;
• Option to rely on certain scaled disclosures available to smaller reporting companies (such as for executive compensation);
• Ability to test the waters with QIBs and institutional accredited investors to gauge interest before or after filing (See “The Pre-Filing Period” below);
• Exemption from:
• The advisory vote on golden parachute payments;
• Disclosing the relationship between executive compensation and financial performance;
• Disclosing CEO pay-ratio;
• Auditor attestation of internal controls under Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley;
• Compliance with new or revised accounting standard until the date the standard becomes broadly applicable to private companies; and
• Any PCAOB rules requiring audit firm rotation or modified audit report requirements unless the SEC determines it is necessary.
• Phase-in of say-on-pay requirement:
• In the case of an issuer that was an EGC for less than two years, by the end of the three-year period following its IPO; and
• For any other EGC, within one year of having lost its EGC status.
• Test-the-waters confidential communications are permitted with qualified institutional buyers and institutional accredited investors.
An issuer will remain an EGC until the earliest of:
• The last day of the first fiscal year after the issuer’s annual revenues exceed $1 billion;
• The last day of the fiscal year following the fifth anniversary of the issuer’s IPO;
• The date on which the issuer has, during the previous three-year period, issued more than $1 billion in
• The date on which the issuer qualifies as a large accelerated filer.
except under limited circumstances, a majority of the directors be “independent,” as defined by both the federal securities laws and regulations and exchange regulations. In addition, boards should include individuals with appropriate financial expertise and relevant real estate industry experience, as well as an understanding of risk management issues and public company experience. A company should begin its search for suitable directors early in the IPO process even if it will not appoint the directors until after
the IPO is completed. The company can turn to its large investors as well as its counsel and
underwriters for references regarding potential directors.
THE OFFERING PROCESS
The public offering process is divided into three periods:
• The pre-filing period between determining to proceed with a public offering and the
actual SEC filing of the registration statement; the company is in the “quiet period” and subject to potential limits on public disclosure relating to the offering.
• The waiting or pre-effective period between the SEC filing date and the effective date of the registration statement; during this period, the company may make oral offers, but may not enter into binding agreements to
sell the offered security.
• The post-effective period between effectiveness and completion of the offering
The Registration Statement
A registration statement contains the prospectus, which is the primary selling document, as well as other required information, written undertakings of the issuer, and the signatures of the issuer
Well before its IPO, an issuer should begin to approach executive compensation as would a public company.
The IPO registration statement requires the same enhanced executive compensation disclosures that public companies provide in their annual proxy statements, including a discussion of compensation philosophy, an analysis of how compensation programs implement that philosophy, and a discussion of the effects of risk taking on compensation decisions. In mortgage REITs and REITs that are not self-managed or self-administered, the REIT will also be required to provide extensive disclosure
of both the compensation paid to the managers and the process to manage conflicts of interest. Under the JOBS Act, an EGC is required to include only summary compensation information in the IPO registration statement rather than the more extensive discussion and analysis of compensation required for a non-EGC. However, the EGC should always keep in mind that it may be required to include more substantial executive compensation disclosure in future filings.
Issuers contemplating an IPO should consider:
Systematizing compensation practices. Compensation decisions should be made more systematically—doing so will require:
• establishing an independent compensation committee of the board of directors;
• using more formal market information to set compensation; and
• establishing a regular compensation grant cycle.
Confirming accounting and tax treatment. The issuer should be sure that the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) Section 409A valuation used to establish stock value for stock option purposes is consistent with that used for financial accounting purposes. The issuer also should consider whether to limit option grants as the IPO effective date approaches. Option grants close to an IPO may raise “cheap stock” issues.
Complying with securities laws. The issuer should confirm that equity grants were made in compliance with federal and state securities rules, including Regulation
S-K Rule 701 limits, to avoid rescission or other compliance concerns.
Adopting plans. An issuer will have greater flexibility to adopt compensation plans prior to its IPO. Accordingly, planning ahead is essential. An issuer should adopt the plans it thinks it may need during its first few years
of life as a public company (including an equity plan, employee stock purchase plans, and Code Section 162(m) “grandfathered” bonus plans), and reserve sufficient shares for future grants. Public companies are required to obtain shareholder approval for new compensation plans and material amendments.
Establishing a DRIP. Since REITs typically must pay dividends, in order to recapture a portion of such amounts and raise additional capital, many REITS adopt Dividend Reinvestment or Stock Repurchase Plans, or DRIPs.
THE MAGIC PAGE
The “Magic Page” is where a REIT discloses its dividend policy and distribution plans using a pro forma presentation that shows anticipated dividend payouts relative to cash available for distribution.
The SEC has provided several comments addressing acceptable content for the Magic Page, including the application of both GAAP and non- GAAP measures.
and the majority of the issuer’s directors. It also contains exhibits, including basic corporate documents and material contracts. For REITs and certain other issuers whose business is primarily that of acquiring and holding real estate or interests in real estate, the SEC requires that the issuers use Form S-11 for IPOs as well as Guide 5. Note, issuers that operate a real estate- related business, such as a resort, are considered to be providing a service rather than holding real estate and must file on Form S-1. Foreign private issuers may also use Form S-11 although they
are permitted to comply with certain provisions of Form 20-F, the general registration form for foreign private issuers, for certain non-real- estate-related disclosure rather than the more detailed requirements of Form S-11.
The prospectus describes the offering terms, the anticipated use of proceeds, the company, its industry, business, management and ownership, and its results of operations and financial condition. Although it is principally a disclosure document, the prospectus also is crucial to the selling process. A good prospectus sets forth the “investment proposition.”
As a disclosure document, the prospectus functions as an “insurance policy” of sorts in that it is intended to limit the issuer’s
and underwriters’ potential liability to IPO purchasers. If the prospectus contains all SEC- required information, includes robust risk factors that explain the risks that the company faces, and has no material misstatements or omissions, investors will not be able to recover their losses in a lawsuit if the price of the stock drops following the IPO.
A prospectus should not include “puffery” or overly optimistic or unsupported statements about the company’s future performance. Rather, it should contain a balanced discussion of the company’s business, along with a detailed discussion of risks and operating and financial trends that may affect its results of operations and prospects.
SEC rules generally require a substantial number of specific disclosures to be made in the
prospectus. Most new REITs will qualify as EGCs
Commodity Exchange Act and Equity REITs
According to a 2012 interpretative letter from the CFTC, an equity REIT is not a commodity pool and therefore, is not subject to the Commodity
Exchange Act if the equity REIT meets the follow- ing conditions:
• The primary income of the REIT comes from the ownership and management of real estate and it only uses derivatives to mitigate expo- sure to interest rate or currency risk;
• The REIT complies with all the requirements of a REIT election under the Code, including the 95% and the 75% income test (Code Sections 856(c)(2) and 856(c)(3)); and
• The REIT has identified itself as an equity REIT in Item G of its last U.S. income tax return or, if it has not filed its first tax return, it has ex- pressed its intention to do so to its participants and effectuates such intention.
and can take advantage of the scaled disclosure available for smaller public reporting companies. Further and in contrast to the general requirements of Form S-1, Form S-11 and Guide 5 contain detailed requirements regarding the following information for the issuer:
• real estate ownership
• investment policies
• operating data
• descriptions of the real estate
• disclosure about the prior experience of sponsors and their affiliates.
Depending on the nature of the specific REIT—UPREIT, DownREIT, equity, mortgage, externally managed, self-managed or self- administered, blind pool, etc.—there will
be additional necessary disclosures. If the transaction meets the SEC definition of a “roll- up transaction,” there are further disclosure obligations (see “UPREITs and Roll-ups”).
In addition, federal securities laws, particularly Rule 10b-5 under the Exchange Act, require that documents used to sell a security contain all the information material to an investment decision and do not omit any information necessary to avoid misleading potential investors. Federal securities laws do not define materiality;
the basic standard for determining whether information is material is whether a reasonable investor would consider the particular information important in making an investment decision. That simple statement is often difficult to apply in practice.
Although the JOBS Act provides for certain reduced disclosure requirements for EGCs, an issuer should be prepared for a time-consuming drafting process, during which the issuer, investment bankers, and their respective counsel work together to craft the prospectus disclosure.
Directors’ and officers’ (D&O) insurance protects directors and officers from losses resulting from their service to a company. Typically, a D&O insurance policy maintained by a private company will not provide coverage for securities offerings, such as an IPO, and will not contain the coverage or provisions applicable to public companies.
A company that is going public should review its existing D&O coverage and seek additional coverage. A public company’s D&O insurance program generally contains three types of coverage in one policy:
• Side A covers D&Os’ costs and expenses for defense and due to payouts under settlements and
judgments, where indemnification may not otherwise be available, such as due to state law limitations.
• Side B provides reimbursement to the company if it has indemnified D&Os in connection with a claim. Side B coverage is the most commonly invoked portion of a D&O policy.
• Side C, known as “entity coverage,” covers the company itself. For public companies, coverage usually includes only claims resulting from alleged securities law violations.
Most D&O insurance policies have complicated applications and impose compliance obligations upon the company. False statements in the application or failure to comply with these obligations can result in the loss of coverage if any substantial liabilities arise. As a result, a company will want to be certain that it has one or more employees who have appropriate experience preparing the application, and who will assume compliance responsibilities once the policy is effective.
The Pre-Filing Period
The pre-filing period begins when the company and the underwriters agree to proceed with
a public offering. During this period, key management personnel will generally make a series of presentations covering the company’s business and industry, market opportunities, and financial matters. The underwriters will use these presentations as an opportunity to ask questions and establish a basis for their “due diligence” defense. In particular, underwriters will want to visit the major properties owned
by property REITs as well as to analyze the mortgage loan portfolios of mortgage REITs. From the first all-hands meeting forward, all statements concerning the company should
be reviewed by the company’s counsel to ensure compliance with applicable rules. Communications by an issuer more than 30 days prior to filing a registration statement are permitted as long as they do not reference the securities offering. Statements made within 30
days of filing a registration statement that could be considered an attempt to pre-sell the public offering may be considered an illegal prospectus, creating a “gun-jumping” violation. This might result in the SEC’s delaying the public offering or
requiring prospectus disclosures of these potential securities law violations. Press interviews, participation in investment banker-sponsored conferences, and new advertising campaigns are generally discouraged during this period.
However, the JOBS Act has softened the
gun-jumping fears. If the company is an EGC under the JOBS Act, it can engage in oral and written test-the-waters communications with QIBs and institutional accredited investors to gauge interest in the offering during both the pre-filing period and after filing without
being required to file written communications with the SEC. However, the SEC will ask to review copies of any written materials used
for this purpose. The JOBS Act is still new and there is no clear market practice on test- the-waters communications. An issuer should consult with its counsel and the underwriters before engaging in any test-the-waters communication.
In general, at least four to six weeks will pass between the distribution of a first draft of
the registration statement and its filing with or submission to the SEC. To a large extent, the length of the pre-filing period will be determined by the amount of time required to obtain the required financial statements.
An EGC may confidentially submit a draft registration statement for non-public review but must file its registration statements publicly at least 21 days prior to conducting a roadshow. The confidential submission process allows an EGC to commence the SEC review process without publicly disclosing sensitive information and to work through the SEC comment process without the glare of publicity
and without competitors becoming aware of the proposed offering. Further, should the issuer determine that the market will not be receptive to the offering, or that other alternatives are more appealing, it can withdraw from the process without the stigma of a failed deal. The confidentially submitted registration statement should be materially complete as the SEC might decide not to review an incomplete registration statement, slowing down the offering process.
The Waiting Period
Responding to SEC Comments on the Registration Statement
The SEC targets 30 calendar days from the registration statement filing or confidential submission date to respond with comments. It is not unusual for the first SEC comment letter to contain a significant number of comments that the issuer must respond to both in a letter and by
amending the registration statement. After the SEC has provided its initial set of comments, it is much easier to determine when the registration process is likely to be completed and the offering can be made. In most cases, offering participants delay the offering process and avoid distributing a preliminary prospectus until the SEC has provided at least two rounds of comments and
all material changes suggested by the SEC staff have been addressed.
Preparing the Underwriting Agreement, the Comfort Letter, and Other Documents; FINRA Filings
During the waiting period, the company, the underwriters and their counsel, and the
company’s independent auditor will negotiate a number of agreements and other documents,
particularly the underwriting agreement and the auditor’s “comfort letter.”
The underwriting agreement is the agreement pursuant to which the company agrees to sell, and the underwriters agree to buy, the shares and then sell them to the public; until this
agreement is signed, the underwriters do not have an enforceable obligation to acquire the offered shares. The underwriting agreement is not signed until the offering is priced. In a typical IPO, the underwriters will have a “firm commitment” to buy the shares once they sign the underwriting agreement. “Best efforts” offerings are rare for publicly traded, listed REITs.
Underwriters’ counsel will submit the underwriting agreement, the registration statement, and other offering documents for review to FINRA, which is responsible for reviewing the terms of the offering to ensure that they comply with FINRA requirements. In addition to compliance with the general FINRA corporate financing rule for IPOs, FINRA also imposes specific disclosure and organization and
offering expense limitations on REIT offerings, which for some purposes, are treated as “direct participation programs.” However, REITs are exempt from FINRA Rule 2310 requirements regarding conflicts of interests. An IPO cannot proceed until the underwriting arrangement terms have been approved by FINRA.
In the “comfort letter,” the auditor affirms
(1) its independence from the issuer; and
(2) the compliance of the financial statements with applicable accounting requirements and SEC regulations.
The auditor also will note period-to-period changes in certain financial items. These statements follow prescribed forms and are usually not the subject of significant negotiation. The underwriters will also usually require that the auditor undertake certain “agreed-upon” procedures, which can be subject to significant negotiation, in which it compares financial information in the prospectus (outside of the financial statements) to the issuer’s accounting records to confirm its accuracy.
Marketing the Offering
During the waiting period, marketing begins.
The only written sales materials that may be distributed during this period are the preliminary prospectus, additional materials known as
“free writing prospectuses,” which must satisfy specified SEC requirements and any EGC test- the-waters communications described above. While binding commitments cannot be made during this period, the underwriters will receive indications of interest from potential investors, indicating the price they would be willing to pay and the number of shares they would purchase. Once SEC comments are resolved, or it is clear that there are no material open issues, the
issuer and underwriters will undertake a one- to two-week “road show,” during which company
Sequencing Key Events
6 –12 months before IPO
• Company rounds out management team (if needed)
• Focus on “corporate cleanup”
• Identify real estate assets that may be acquired
4 – 6 months before IPO
• Company decides formally to undertake IPO
• Appoint underwriter
• Publicity restrictions commence
• Finalize structure – UPREIT, DownREIT, etc.
• Analyze valuation of real estate assets
• Begin process to effect private roll-up transaction
2 months before first SEC filing
• Conduct due diligence
• Complete prospectus drafting
• Complete audit and review of interim financials
• Adopt public company policies, controls, procedures, and other corporate governance matters if not already done
• Complete any private offering immediately prior to filing
Initial SEC filing or confidential submission
• File Form S-11 with SEC or submit confidentially to SEC and submit application to exchange
• File confidential treatment request for any exhibits, if necessary
4 weeks after filing
• Receive first SEC comments
1–2 weeks after receipt of SEC comments
• File amended Form S-11
Comments at 2– 4 week intervals
• Respond to second (and third and fourth) round of SEC comments
Typically 3–5 months after first filing
• Resolve material SEC comments
• Listing approval
• Bulk print preliminary (“red”) prospectus
21 days prior to road show for EGCs
• File registration statement
Typically 1–2 weeks
• Road show
• Form S -11 declared effective
• Price deal
• Commence public offering
3– 4 days after pricing
• Close offering
management will meet with prospective investors. As noted above, an EGC must publicly file the confidentially submitted registration statement, along with any amendments, at least 21 days before the beginning of the road show.
Once SEC comments are cleared and the underwriters have assembled indications of interest for the offered securities, the company and its counsel will request that the SEC declare the registration statement “effective” at a certain date and time, usually after the close of business of the U.S. securities markets on the date
scheduled for pricing the offering.
The Post-Effective Period
Once the registration statement has been declared effective and the offering has been priced, the issuer and the managing underwriters execute the underwriting
agreement and the auditor delivers the final comfort letter. This occurs after pricing and before the commencement of trading on the following day. The company then files a final prospectus with the SEC that contains the final offering information.
NYSE vs. NASDAQ: Principal Quantitative Listing Requirements
The following table summarizes the principal quantitative listing requirements; there are also qualitative requirements. The overwhelming majority of REITs list on the NYSE.
SELECTED LISTING REqUIREmENT
NASDAq GLObAL mARkET**
minimum Number of Shareholders
• 2200 total holders together with average monthly trading volume of 100,000 shares (for the most recent 6 months); or
• 500 total holders together with average monthly trading volume 100,000 shares (for the most recent 12 months); or
• 400 round lot holders
• At least 550 total holders and an average monthly trading volume over the prior 12 months of at least 1,100,000 shares per month; or
• At least 2,200 Total Holders; or
• A minimum of 450 Round Lot Holders.
minimum Number of Publicly Held Shares
minimum Aggregate market Value of Publicly Held Shares
minimum Price Per Share
At least $4.00 at initial listing
minimum Number of market makers
Four, unless company qualifies for listing under the Income or Equity Standards, which each require three.
minimum Financial Standards
One of the following:
• Earnings Test: Pre-tax earnings from continuing operations, subject to adjustments, must total $12 million for the last three fiscal years, including a minimum of
$5 million in most recent fiscal year and minimum of
$2 million in the next most recent fiscal year.****
• Valuation/Revenue with Cash Flow Test: (1) $500 million in global market cap, (2) 12 months of operating history (3)
$100 million in revenues during the most recent 12-month period, and (4) $25 million aggregate cash flows for the last three fiscal years with positive amounts in all three years, subject to adjustment.
• Pure Valuation/Revenue Test: (1) $750 million in global market cap, and (2) $75 million in revenues during the most recent fiscal year.
• Affiliated Company Test: (1) $500 million in global market capitalization, (2) parent or affiliated company is a listed company in good standing, and (3) parent or affiliated company retains control of, or is under common control with, the entity.
• Assets and Equity Test: (1) $150 million in global market cap, and (2) $75 million in total assets, including
$50 million in stockholders’ equity, subject to adjustment.
One of the following:
• Income Standard: (1) $1 million in annual pre-tax income from continuing operations in most recently completed fiscal year or in two of the three most recently completed fiscal years, and (2)
stockholders’ equity of $15 million.
• Equity Standard: (1) stockholders’ equity of $30 million and (2) 2-year operating history.
• Market Value Standard: N/A for IPO.
• Total Assets/Total Revenue Standard: total assets + total revenue of $75 million each for the most recently completed fiscal year or two of the three most recently completed fiscal years.
* REITs are required to have $60 million in stockholder’s equity to list on the NYSE.
** The other tiers (Nasdaq Global Select Market and Nasdaq Capital Market) have similar requirements.
*** Shares held by directors, officers, or immediate families and other concentrated holdings of 10% or more are excluded.
**** A company that qualifies as an EGC and avails itself of the provisions of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act permitting EGCs to report only two years of audited financial statements, can qualify under the Earnings Test by meeting the following requirements: Pre-tax earnings from continuing operations and after minority interest, amortization and equity in the earnings or losses of investees, as adjusted, must total at least $10,000,000 in the aggregate for the last two fiscal years together with a minimum of $2,000,000 in both years.
On the third or fourth business day following pricing, the closing occurs, the shares are
issued, and the issuer receives the proceeds. The closing completes the offering process. Then,
for the following 25 days, aftermarket sales of shares by dealers must be accompanied by
the final prospectus or a notice with respect to its availability. If during this period there is a
material change that would make the prospectus misleading, the company must file an amended prospectus. This is referred to as the “quiet period.”
THE UNDERWRITER’S ROLE
A company will identify one or more lead underwriters that will be responsible for the IPO. A company chooses an underwriter based on its industry expertise, including the knowledge and
following of its research analysts, the breadth of its distribution capacity, and its overall reputation. A company should consider the underwriter’s commitment to the sector and its distribution strengths. For example, does the investment bank have a particularly strong research distribution network, or is it focused on institutional distribution? Is its strength domestic, or does it have foreign distribution capacity? The company may want to include
a number of co-managers in order to balance the underwriters’ respective strengths and weaknesses.
A company should keep in mind that underwriters have at least two conflicting responsibilities—to sell the IPO shares on behalf of the company, and to recommend to potential
Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires publicly traded companies to implement corporate governance policies and procedures that are intended to provide minimum structural safeguards to investors. Certain of these requirements are phased in after the IPO, and some requirements have been made less burdensome for EGCs under the JOBS Act.
Key provisions include:
• Requirements related to the company’s internal control over financial reporting, including (1) management’s assessment and report on the effectiveness of the company’s internal controls on an annual basis, with additional quarterly review obligations, and (2) audit of the company’s internal controls by its independent registered public accounting firm. However, a company will not need to comply with the auditor attestation requirement as long as it qualifies as an EGC.
• Prohibition of most loans to directors and executive officers (and equivalents thereof).
• Certification by the CEO and CFO of a public company of each SEC periodic report containing financial statements.
• Adoption of a code of business conduct and ethics for directors and senior executive officers.
• Required “real time” reporting of certain material events relating to the company’s financial condition or operations.
• Disclosure of whether the company has an “audit committee financial expert” serving on its audit committee.
• Disclosure of material off-balance sheet arrangements and contractual obligations.
• Audit committee approval of any services provided to the company by its audit firm, with certain exceptions for de minimis services.
• Whistleblower protections for employees who come forward with information relating to federal securities law violations.
• Compensation disgorgement provisions applicable to the CEO and CFO upon a restatement of financial results attributable to misconduct.
The exchanges’ listing requirements contain related substantive corporate governance requirements regarding independent directors; audit, nomination, and compensation committees; and other matters.
investors that the purchase of the IPO shares is a suitable and a worthy investment. In order to
better understand the company— and to provide a defense in case the underwriters are sued in connection with the IPO—the underwriters and their counsel are likely to spend a substantial amount of time performing business, financial, and legal due diligence in connection with the IPO, visiting the properties, and making sure that the prospectus and any other offering materials are consistent with the information provided. The underwriters will market the IPO shares, set the price (in consultation with the company) at which the shares will be offered
to the public, and, in a “firm commitment” underwriting, purchase the shares from the company and then re-sell them to investors. In order to ensure an orderly market for the IPO shares, after the shares are priced and sold, the underwriters are permitted in many circumstances to engage in certain stabilizing transactions to support the stock.
FINANCIAL REPORTING AND ACCOUNTING
The IPO registration statement must include audited financial statements for the last three fiscal years; financial statements for the most recent fiscal interim period, comparative
As discussed under “Roll-ups and UPREITS” and elsewhere in this Guide, REIT formation transactions can be complex, resulting in significant accounting issues. The SEC is available to discuss these accounting and structuring issues even in advance of a confidential submission or filing of a registration statement, and it
is advisable to approach the SEC early in the process to avoid costly delays.
with interim financial information for the corresponding prior fiscal period (may or may not be audited depending on the circumstances); and income statement and condensed balance sheet information for the last five years (the earliest two years may be derived from unaudited financial statements) and interim periods presented. The SEC also requires special income statement and balance sheet captions for REITs. A REIT may not be able to provide full financial statements with respect to real estate operations to be acquired. In those circumstances, the SEC may allow an issuer to include more limited financial information.
Early on, the issuer should identify any problems associated with providing the required financial statements (including any complex predecessor or similar issues in a “roll-up” IPO) in order
to seek necessary accommodation from the SEC. These statements must be prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP, as they will be the source of information for “Management’s
Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” (MD&A). The SEC will review and comment on the financial statements and the MD&A. The SEC’s areas of particular concern are:
• revenue recognition
• business combinations
• segment reporting
• financial instruments
• impairments of all kinds
• deferred tax valuation allowances
• compliance with debt covenants
• fair value
• loan losses
The JOBS Act significantly reduced the extent of financial reporting required in an IPO for
EGCs. If the company is an EGC under the JOBS Act, its IPO registration statement may provide only two years of audited financial statements and two years of selected financial data. An
EGC will also not be required to include either a management’s report on its internal control over financial reporting or an auditor’s report on such internal control until the second annual report following its IPO.
The real estate industry discloses a unique operating metric that the SEC traditionally has allowed even when it was more hostile to non- GAAP financial measures. FFO, or “Funds from Operations,” is neither operating income nor cash flow from operations. NAREIT has taken the lead in establishing a base definition of
FFO since at least 1991, although many REITs disclose various forms of adjusted FFO. A typical FFO disclosure (from Vornado Realty Trust’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 30, 2012), reflecting the SEC focus on the purpose of the metric and comparability, follows:
“FFO is computed in accordance with the definition adopted by the Board of Governors of the National Association of Real Estate
Investment Trusts (“NAREIT”). NAREIT defines FFO as GAAP net income or loss adjusted to exclude net gains from sales of depreciated
real estate assets and real estate impairment losses, depreciation and amortization expense from real estate assets, extraordinary items and other specified non-cash items, including the pro rata share of such adjustments of unconsolidated subsidiaries. FFO and FFO per diluted share are used by management, investors and analysts to facilitate meaningful
comparisons of operating performance between periods and among our peers because it excludes the effect of real estate depreciation and amortization and net gains on sales, which are based on historical costs and implicitly assume that the value of real estate diminishes predictably over time, rather than fluctuating
Now that the JOBS Act is more than a year old, some trends in EGC IPOs have become apparent. Some EGCs are not taking full advantage of the various accommodations. For the first year of the JOBS Act:
• 63% of EGC IPOs have taken advantage of the confidential review process;
• 34% of EGC registration statements included only two years of audited financial statements, MD&A and selected financial data (not including EGCs that are
also smaller reporting companies or who do not have two years of reporting history); and
• 82% of EGC registration statements excluded a compensation discussion and analysis (not including EGCs that are also small reporting companies).
Few EGCs appear to be taking advantage of the ability to use test-the-waters communications and broker- dealers are still generally not publishing research reports during the registration process or during the customary 25-day post-closing “quiet period.” In addition, most EGCs are opting to abide with new or amended financial accounting standards. Bankers and counsel to EGCs may be advising them to consider whether the benefit of reduced compliance obligations may adversely affect market perception and industry comparability.
In the first year, real estate companies accounted for 16% of EGC IPOs
based on existing market conditions. FFO does not represent cash generated from operating activities and is not necessarily indicative of cash available to fund cash requirements and should not be considered as an alternative to net income as a performance measure or cash flows as a liquidity measure. FFO may not
be comparable to similarly titled measures employed by other companies.”
Other Performance Measures
Most REITs now disclose a variety of non- GAAP measures such as net operating income (“NOI”), cash/funds available for distribution (“CAD/FAD”) or adjusted funds from operations (“AFFO”). NOI is the operating income after operating expenses but before income taxes
and interest are deducted. CAD/FAD is used to measure a REIT’s ability to generate cash and to distribute dividends and is equal to FFO minus recurring capital expenditures. AFFO is equal to FFO after adjustments for certain non-comparable items. Depending
on the adjustments, AFFO calculation varies from company to company, which can make a comparability analysis difficult.
Internal Control over Financial Reporting
An issuer will not be required to include either a management’s report on its internal control over financial reporting or an auditor’s report on such internal control until the second annual
report following its IPO. However, so long as the company is an EGC under the JOBS Act, it will
be exempt from providing an auditor’s report on such internal control.
An integral part of the IPO process is the SEC’s review of the registration statement. Once the registration statement is filed or confidentially submitted, a team of SEC staff members is assigned to review the filing. The team consists of accountants and lawyers, including examiners and supervisors. The SEC’s objective is to assess the company’s compliance with its registration
The SEC’s principal focus during the review process is on disclosure. In addition to assessing compliance with applicable requirements, the
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010
The Dodd-Frank Act has led to additional corporate governance changes for public companies, including:
• On January 11, 2013, the SEC approved the rule changes of the NYSE and NASDAQ concerning a board’s compensation committee practices and related disclosure. The new listing standards became effective on July 1, 2013 and relates to:
• a board’s compensation committee practices and related disclosure;
• issuer adoption of a policy providing for a “clawback” of incentive compensation from current and former executive officers if it is required to prepare an accounting restatement due to material noncompliance with any financial reporting requirement under the securities laws.
• Shareholder approval of certain transactions, including “say-on-pay” votes on executive compensation and certain golden parachute compensation arrangements.
SEC considers the disclosures through the eyes of an investor in order to determine the type of information that would be considered
material. The SEC’s review is not limited to just the registration statement. The staff will closely review websites, databases, and magazine and newspaper articles, looking in particular for information that the staff thinks should be in the prospectus or that contradicts information included in the prospectus.
The review process is time-consuming. While there was a time when the review process could be completed in roughly two months, now, given the length of the prospectus and the complexity of the disclosure, it can take three to five months. This depends on the complexity of the company’s
Controlling Your Shares
Lock-ups. To provide for an orderly market and to prevent existing shareholders from dumping their shares into the market immediately after the IPO, underwriters will require the issuer as well as directors, executive officers, and large shareholders (and sometimes all pre-IPO shareholders) to agree not to sell their shares of common stock, except under limited circumstances, for a period of up to 180 days following the IPO, effectively “locking up” such shares. Exceptions to the lock-up include issuances of shares in acquisitions and in compensation-based grants. Shareholders may be permitted to exercise existing options (but not sell the underlying shares), transfer shares to family trusts, and sometimes to make specified private sales, provided that the acquiror also agrees to be bound by the lock-up restrictions. These lock-up exceptions will be highly negotiated.
Note that in an UPREIT structure, the unitholders may also be locked up but they may also be subject to a longer holding period before they can tender units for the securities of the public REIT.
In connection with an IPO, the issuer may want the option to “direct” shares to directors, officers, employees and their relatives, or specific other designated people, such as vendors or strategic partners. Directed share (or “family and friends”)
programs, or DSPs, set aside stock for this purpose, usually 5% to 10% of the total shares offered in the IPO. Participants pay the initial public offering price. Shares not sold pursuant to the DSP are sold by the underwriters.
Generally, directed shares are freely tradable securities and are not subject to the underwriter’s lock-up agreement, although the shares may be locked up for some shorter period. Each underwriter has its own program format. There are, however, guidelines that must be followed. The DSP is not a separate offering by the company but is part of the plan of distribution
of the IPO shares and must be sold pursuant to the IPO prospectus.
business and the nature of the issues raised in the review process.
Initial comments on Form S-11 are provided in about 30 days—depending on the SEC’s workload and the complexity of the filing, the
receipt of first-round comments may be sooner or later. The initial letter for REITs typically runs about 50 - 100 comments, with a majority of the comments addressing accounting issues. The company and counsel will prepare a complete and thorough response. In some instances,
the company may not agree with the SEC staff’s comment, and may choose to schedule calls to discuss the matter with the staff. The company will file or confidentially submit an
amendment revising the prospectus, and provide the response letter along with any additional
information. The SEC staff generally tries to address response letters and amendments within 10 days, but timing varies considerably.
Frequent Areas of Comment
It is easy to anticipate many of the matters that the SEC will raise in the comment process. The SEC makes the comment letters and responses from prior reviews available on its website,
so it is possible to determine the most typical comments raised during the IPO process.
Overall, the SEC staff looks for a balanced, clear presentation of the information required in the registration statement. Some of the most frequent comments raised by the SEC staff on disclosure, other than the financial statements, include:
• Front cover and gatefold: On the theory that
“a picture is worth a thousand words,” does the artwork present a balanced presentation of the company’s business, properties, or geographies?
• Prospectus summary: Is the presentation balanced?
• Risk factors: Are the risks specific to the company and devoid of mitigating language? The following are risk factors to which recent SEC comments have been issued:
Specificity of the risk factor heading;
Risks related to the manager such as internalization of management functions or difficulty in terminating or not to renew the manager for poor performance;
Conflicts of interests; Liquidity events;
Distributions paid in excess of earnings and cash flow;
Material risks or expenditures in relation to lead paint with respect to properties;
Any guarantee obligations in connection with related financing transactions; Change of investment strategy and financing strategy without shareholder approval; and
Identification of material weakness in internal controls.
• Use of proceeds: Is there a specific allocation of the proceeds among identified uses, and if funding acquisitions is a designated use, are acquisition plans identified?
• Selected financial data and other financial information: Does the presentation of non- GAAP financial measures comply with SEC rules?
• MD&A: Does the discussion address known trends, events, commitments, demands, or uncertainties, including the impact of the economy, trends with respect to liquidity, and critical accounting estimates and policies?
• Business: Does the company provide support for statements about market position and
other industry or comparative data? Is the disclosure free of, or does it explain, business jargon? Are the relationships with customers and suppliers, including concentration risk, clearly described?
• Management: Is the executive compensation disclosure, particularly the compensation discussion and analysis, clear? Does it include discussion of performance targets, benchmarking, and individual performance?
• Prior performance information: Is the description of prior performance by related real estate entities complete, responsive to disclosure requirements, and balanced?
• Underwriting: Is there sufficient disclosure about stabilization activities (including naked short selling), as well as factors considered in early termination of lock-ups and any material relationships with the underwriters?
• Exhibits: Do any other contracts need to be filed based on disclosure in the prospectus?
A FINAL THOUGHT
While windows open and close, and REITs and their advisors may have different views concerning the right moment to commence active and intense preparation for an IPO, it is rarely too early to undertake the advance planning described above. Much of this preparatory work is neither time-consuming nor expensive. Yet it will enhance greatly the opportunity to get into the market quickly, when the market is there. And even if an IPO does not turn out to be the option of choice,
this preparatory work should prove valuable in facilitating other funding opportunities, or even acquisition by an existing public company.
The Likely Alternatives
A growing real estate company has a number of financing alternatives, in addition to a traditional firm commitment, underwritten IPO.
WHICH WAY TO GO?
PRIVATE CAPITAL RAISE/BANK LOAN
DUAL-TRACK APPROACHES (IPO/PRIVATE SALE)
• Less or no dilution
• Less expensive and time-consuming
• No public obligations
• No acquisition “currency”
• Limits equity compensation
• Investor pressure for realization event
• No “public” profile
• or market following
• Can be complete realization event
• Avoids market instability
• No public obligations and expense
• Typically, no continuing involvement by management and founders
• May be time-consuming and expensive
• Potential to maximize shareholder value and
• More responsive to market conditions
• Unsuccessful sale could affect IPO valuation and
• More time-consuming and expensive
Reverse Merger IPO (merger into a public shell)
Rule 144A IPO/“PIPO”
• Combination IPO and sale
• Potentially faster than traditional IPO
• Can be combined with raising private capital
• Attractive to smaller private companies
• Has a bad reputation
• Need to find “clean” public shell
• Potential for unknown liabilities
• SEC-style disclosure; no SEC review and delay
• Access to capital
• Limited to institutional investors
• Available only to certain industry sectors
• Delays but does not avoid public disclosure and other obligations
• Unlocks perceived value of a business unit or subsidiary
• All benefits of being public
• Compliance with complex tax requirements
• SEC process is substantially similar to IPO
• All considerations of being public