Split REIT Opportunity Trust and First Asset Equal Weight REIT Income Fund Comment on Recent Activity in the REIT Sector
TORONTO, August 31, 2006 - In response to investor questions about the impact of recent announcements in the Canadian REIT market, First Asset Funds Inc., the Manager of both Split REIT Opportunity Trust (TSX: SOT.UN) and First Asset Equal Weight REIT Income Fund (TSX: RIT.UN, and together with SOT.UN, the "Funds") would like to reiterate its views on the sector and the potential positive impact on the Funds.
Yesterday, the Board of Trustees of Summit REIT (TSX: SMU.UN) announced its unanimous decision to recommend unconditionally the offer to acquire all of the issued and outstanding units in Summit REIT by ING Real Estate Trust. The offer values Summit at $30/unit or $3.3 billion. This represents a substantial premium (17.9%) to both the closing price (8/30/2006 - $24.45) and to the volume weighted average price of the REIT (18.7%) over the last 20 days. Summit REIT is one of Canada's largest real estate investment trusts, having 33 million square feet of leasable space focused primarily on the light industrial segment of the marketplace. The broader Canadian REIT universe is up approximately 4% today.
This proposed acquisition further supports the investment thesis of First Asset Investment Management, Inc., the investment manager of the Funds, that REITs would be the beneficiary of a growing trend of both domestic and cross-border merger and acquisition activity. According to John Stephenson, who, along with Lee Goldman, is one of the co-managers of the funds, "Canadian REITs trade at a significant discount globally, both in terms of an AFFO multiple and on a yield basis when compared with their international peers. As a result, the Canadian REIT universe offers investors the greatest potential upside of any major REIT market in the world."
The recognition of a trend towards a global benchmarking of Canadian REITs, as well as the attractive valuation disparities between Canadian REITs and the rest of the world was apparent to First Asset Funds when it launched Split REIT Opportunity Trust in June of 2006. From the outset, the fund has featured an active management style that has been designed to maximize opportunity in the sector while mitigating risk. "The recent ING offer firmly establishes a new Canadian REIT benchmark transaction in terms of both valuation and scale that will put a firm bid under all Canadian REITs", says Stephenson.
First Asset Funds Inc. believes that the trends towards globalization, privatization and merger and acquisition activity within the sector will continue and investors in the two offerings by First Asset will be the beneficiaries. The offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Summit REIT was led by ING's Australian real estate professionals who brought the proposed transaction to the attention of the firm's Dutch parent. This further highlights the themes echoed by Stephenson and First Asset Funds - that globalization and consolidation have arrived in a big way on the Canadian REIT landscape. David Blight, Global CEO of ING Real Estate Investment Management, stated, "this proposed acquisition marks a continuation of our strategy to invest in industrial property markets on a global basis." Michael Smith, a REIT analyst with National Bank Financial makes the case that one phase of the evolution of the REIT market is Consolidation. He believes that Canadian REITs are entering this phase currently and a wave of takeover activity "will elevate prices as the market witnesses merger activities being transacted at a premium to trading prices and ascribes similar valuation metrics to the remaining sector." In his research note of August 31, 2006, Smith comments, "the Aussies strike in Canada...a wake up call for the REIT sector."
For further information, please call Rob MacNiven, Investor Relations, First Asset Funds Inc. at 416-642-1289 or 1-877-642-1289, or visit www.firstassetfunds.com.