Warren Buffett has just placed a big bet on a real estate investment trust--should you, too?
A regulatory filing Thursday revealed the billionaire investor has an 8.02% stake in Seritage Growth Properties (SRG - Get Report) , a REIT spun off of Sears Holdings (SHLD) in July. He reported owning 2 million shares of the company, valued at $70.5 million as of market close Wednesday.
The stock got a nearly immediate boost, climbing 15% in morning trading.
With a hike in interest rates all but imminent, the timing of the maneuver may appear questionable. But perhaps the Oracle of Omaha is onto something.
"Seritage has a very interesting business plan that should create substantial value for shareholders over time," said Bruce Garrison, senior portfolio manager of REIT strategy at Houston-based investment firm Chilton Capital Management.
With the summer spinoff, Sears sold 235 Sears and Kmart-branded stores to Seritage, most of which it leased back. Others have been leased to third parties such as Lands' End (LE - Get Report) , Walmart (WMT - Get Report) and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Sears also sold Seritage its 50% interest in 31 of its mall-based stores held in joint ventures with mall REITs Simon Property Group (SPG - Get Report) , General Growth Properties (GGP) and Macerich (MAC - Get Report) .
"It should be a big value add for both sides," Garrison said.
As for the commercial real estate industry overall, Garrison said that it is hard to generalize across the entire space because each sector has such different dynamics and fundamental outlooks. However, he said he believes it is a good time to invest in equity REITs.
Occupancy is at record levels, balance sheets have low debt, and dividend payout ratios are low as well, meaning high predictability of dividend growth Garrison estimated to be about 6% over the next three to four years.
"This makes a strong case. And then you couple that with a very limited new supply that can be competitive in the existing space, and you have a package for investors that should deliver a very nice total return," he said.
As to whether an impending boost in interest rates will hurt the sector, it remains to be seen. But many in the industry are confident.
Ethan Penner, managing director of Mosaic Real Estate Investors, told TheStreet Thursday that the impact of a Federal Reserve rate hike on real estate has been vastly overstated.
"This whole hullabloo about a 25 basis point increase on the Fed funds (the Federal funds rate) is really a non-event," he said. "And I think it will have very little impact on anything, including real estate."
It is also worth noting Seritage isn't Buffett's only recent real estate bet. CNBC pointed out that HomeServices of America, a unit of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, reached an agreement to purchase luxury real estate broker Allie Beth Allman & Associates in November.