By Ilaina Jonas
NEW YORK, April 13 (Reuters) - Vornado Realty Trust, facing criticism from investors over its lackluster share price, said it is mulling an array of options including selling its stake in Toys R Us, buying back shares, and even breaking up the real estate investment trust.
“Everything is on the table,” Chairman Steven Roth wrote in his annual letter to shareholders, which was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
Vornado owns office buildings in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as retail property and has stakes in other companies. It also operates a fund business.
Its shares have lagged the benchmark Morgan Stanley REIT Index and its closest office real estate peers for the past three years.
Among the list of actions the company is considering is selling non-core assets such as Toys R Us, which Vornado owns with private equity firm KKR & Co LP and Bain Capital. It also may reduce its enclosed-mall business and sell some of its strip centers. It also said it would consider splitting up the company.
“It’s what we have been expecting,” said Sandler O‘Neill analyst Alexander Goldfarb. “The stock has been an underperformer. It doesn’t have the same sparkle that it used to have. They want that limelight back, and they know they need to do something. People don’t want talk. They want action.”
In a note earlier this week, Goldfarb urged the company to break up into three segments: office, retail and its fund business. Collectively, those segments could be worth $90 a share, he said.
However, Roth said Vornado will “hold for now” its 23.4 million shares in department store JC Penney Co Inc “to reap the benefit of the company’s transformation,” under its new leadership, which includes Chief Executive Ron Johnson, who created Apple Inc’s retail business.
In thin trade after hours, Vornado shares inched up 0.28 percent to $80.16 from its close of $79.94 on the New York Stock Exchange.
In what may seem like a small step, Vornado will break from its long-time tradition of not holding quarterly conference calls. It will hold its first quarterly conference call starting with in the second quarter, Roth said in his annual letter.
New Jersey-based Vornado also will continue to sell some of the office and showrooms in its 5.7 million square-foot Mart business.
“We did try to sell this business as a single division,” Ross wrote. “We came close with one buyer, but no cigar.”
However, it would retain, for now, the 3.5 million square-foot Chicago Merchandise Mart, he said.