* SEC notification 'does not indicate any violations'- Joe
* St. Joe shares fall as much as 11 pct after hours
(Adds background, Fairholme and Greenlight responses,
By Ilaina Jonas and Jennifer Ablan
NEW YORK, Jan 10 St. Joe Co (JOE.N), the
largest private landholder in northern Florida, said on Monday
the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched an
informal inquiry into its policies relating to impairment of
investment in real estate assets.
St. Joe's stock was down as much as 11 percent in
after-hours trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The notification by the SEC "does not indicate any
allegations of wrongdoing and an inquiry is not an indication
of any violations of federal securities laws," the company said
in the filing with the SEC. St. Joe also said it intended to
cooperate fully with the SEC.
St. Joe shares fell to $20.98 and were as low as $20.60 in
after-hours trading. It closed at $23.07 on Monday.
Greenlight Capital hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who in
early 2008 made a prescient call on Lehman Brothers' accounting
troubles before the company collapsed that fall, has said he
believes St. Joe needs to take "substantial impairments" and
accounting writedowns on many of its properties. Einhorn holds
a short position on the company's shares and is betting their
value will fall.
Late on Monday, Greenlight's spokesman said in an email to
Reuters: "St. Joe's valuation practices remain open to
question, as it is hard to understand how the company invested
hundreds of millions of dollars during the real estate bubble
and hasn't seen fit to take a material write-down."
Famed mutual fund manager Bruce Berkowitz has increased its
holdings in St. Joe for his Fairholme Funds and currently holds
a 28.9 percent stake in St. Joe, which owns more than a half
million acres of land in the Florida Panhandle.
A representative for Fairholme could not be reached
immediately for comment.
Separately, funds of BlackRock Income Trust Inc (BKT.N),
the world's biggest money manager, have raised their collective
stakes in St. Joe to 12.59 percent, according to another SEC
filing on Monday. BlackRock funds' higher passive stake was up
from 3.78 percent at the end of September.
St. Joe, whose business of planning large communities,
relies on the Florida housing market. It has lost about three
quarters of its value in the past five-and-a-half years. It hit
a high of $85.25 in the summer of 2005.
(Editing by Andre Grenon)