NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The declining cost of debt and equity has spurred companies to consolidate all the real estate they own and convert themselves into publicly traded real estate investment trusts.
Amplified by investors' demand for high-quality income, this trend has extended into all sorts of industries.
Take for example, Penn National Gaming (PENN - Get Report). The Wyomissing, Pa.-based gaming company announced last year that it was considering a plan to separate its gaming assets and real estate assets into two publicly traded companies.
One company, a REIT, would own Penn's real estate assets. The other, the casino operating company, would lease the real estate from the REIT under what is known as a "triple-net" lease.In such a lease, the tenant pays rent on the property, as well as net real estate taxes, net building insurance and net common area maintenance. In Penn's case, the REIT would also lease some real estate assets to other tenants. As of November 2012, Penn Gaming operated 29 facilities with around 36,800 gaming machines, approximately 850 tables, 2900 hotel rooms, and approximately 1.6 million square feet of gaming floor space. Other new REIT subsectors that are being driven by long-term triple-net leases include data storage, billboards, cell towers, prisons, farms (even possible solar farms) and document storage. Over the last year, REIT-dom has seen an array of new publicly-listed entrants including Spirit Realty (SRC), American Realty Capital Properties (ARCP), Healthcare Trust of America (HTA), CyrusOne (CONE), Gladstone Land Corp. (LAND) and W.P. Carey (WPC - Get Report). Other companies that have announced plans to convert to a REIT include Iron Mountain (IRM), Equinix (EQIX), Lamar Advertising (LAMR) and CBS Corp. (CBS). Elsewhere in the REIT world, Cole Credit Property Trust III announced that it had executed a definitive merger agreement to acquire Cole Holdings Corp. Both companies are private, but the combined entity will go public, taking the ticker symbol COLE. Timing looks good for this Phoenix-based nontraded REIT as the majority of the 1,014 properties (in 47 states) are pure single-tenant buildings (49%), while the other properties are made up of multitenant retail (18%), single-tenant office (17%), single-tenant industrial (7%), debt (4.8%) and joint ventures (2.8%). With debt and equity capital at record lows, Cole has hit the market perfectly as the two companies intend to combine the management platform -- consisting of $12 billion of assets (managed) and 160,00 individual investors -- and the nontraded REIT, which has around 43.1 million square feet in 47 states (99% leased).