Blackstone’s repayments were included in an Aug. 6 regulatory filing that didn’t name the funds.
Blackstone’s $38.7 billion purchase of Sam Zell’s Equity Office Properties Trust in February 2007 marked the pinnacle of a bubble inflated by easy financing. The firm sold $60 billion of real estate assets before the market slumped in 2008, Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said during a July 22 conference call with analysts, according to a transcript.
Profits from some of those sales have helped Blackstone’s funds outperform rivals. The carried interest paid on the profits also exposed Blackstone managers to possible clawbacks when the market fell and dragged down the value of the remaining holdings in their funds. Potential clawbacks at the firm’s property funds more than tripled to $299.8 million last year from $77.2 million at the end of 2008, according to regulatory filings. The figure shrank to $280.3 million at the end of June.
Equity Office Properties
While Blackstone sold $27 billion in assets acquired in the Equity Office deal, there weren’t any potential clawbacks from gains on those transactions, according to the person familiar with the funds. That’s because Blackstone used the proceeds from those real estate sales to pay down debt rather than make carried interest payments to itself and managers.
Property buyout funds raised about $262 billion from 2005 through 2009, more than double the total from the previous five years, according to London-based Preqin Ltd., a research and consulting firm focusing on alternative assets.
In some buyouts, debt reached 95 percent of the price as buyers assumed that rents and cash flow to service the borrowings would rise with the real estate market, said James Corl, a managing director at Siguler Guff & Co. who oversees the New York-based investment firm’s distressed strategies.
Instead, the economy weakened in 2008, leading to defaults among developers such as Harry Macklowe, whose properties were overburdened with debt, Corl said.
Funds that began investing after 2004 have lost money on average, Preqin data show. Funds that entered the market in 2007 have averaged annual declines of 33 percent.
“All of these guys invested in trophy properties at the top of the market,” said Thomas Capasse, a principal at Waterfall Asset Management LLC, a New York firm that invests in high-yield structured debt. “Many of these real estate opportunity funds ended up down 30 to 75 percent.”
In April, Morgan Stanley told investors that the firm expected an $8.8 billion international real estate fund would end up losing about 61 percent of its assets. Whitehall Street International, a property investment fund run by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., lost almost all of its $1.8 billion in equity, CNBC, Reuters and the Financial Times reported the same month.
Private-equity firms begin to earn performance fees once their fund’s annual returns exceed a threshold promised to clients, typically 7 percent to 10 percent. Real estate funds record carried interest as they mark up the value of their holdings. The fees don’t get paid until gains are realized through property sales.
Traditional corporate buyout funds wait until their lifespan, usually about 10 years, is completed to make this calculation. Real estate funds sometimes require interim clawbacks, such as those being made by Blackstone.
“Some managers have had to write checks and some managers have had difficulty writing checks,” said Geoffrey Dohrmann, chief executive officer of Institutional Real Estate Inc., a San Ramon, California, publishing and consulting firm that specializes in the commercial real estate market.
I have written extensively on this topic. For one, the CRE bubble was obvious, but funds plowed ahead because they receive fees for deals done as well as performance fees. I warned about Blackstone and the Sam Zell deal blowing up back in 2007 as it was being done (see Doesn’t Morgan Stanley Read My Blog?). It was quite OBVIOUS that the top of the market was there , but it doesn't matter if you get paid for both success AND failure, does it? They are often in a win-win situation. On April 15th, 2010 I penned “Wall Street Real Estate Funds Lose Between 61% to 98% for Their Investors as They Rake in Fees!” wherein I espoused much of my opinion on market manipulation and the state of CRE. I will excerpt portions below in an attempt to explain how REITs and the bankers that they deal with get to add 2 plus 2 and receive a sum of 6, or worse yet have 4 subtracted from their 6 and get to sell 5!!! Straight up Squid Math!
Oh, yeah! About them Fees!
Last year I felt compelled to comment on Wall Street private fund fees after getting into a debate with a Morgan Stanley employee about the performance of the CRE funds. He had the nerve to brag about the fact that MS made money despite the fact they lost abuot 2/3rds of thier clients money. I though to myself, “Damn, now that’s some bold, hubristic s@$t”. So, I decided to attempt to lay it out for everybody in the blog, see ”Wall Street is Back to Paying Big Bonuses. Are You Sharing in this New Found Prosperity?“. I excerpted a large portion below. Remember, the model used for this article was designed directly from the MSREF V fund. That means the numbers are probably very accurate. Let’s look at what you Morgan Stanely investors lost, and how you lost it:
The example below illustrates the impact of change in the value of real estate investments on the returns of the various stakeholders – lenders, investors (LPs) and fund sponsor (GP), for a real estate fund with an initial investment of $9 billion, 60% leverage and a life of 6 years. The model used to generate this example is freely available for download to prospective Reggie Middleton, LLC clients and BoomBustBlog subscribers by clicking here: Real estate fund illustration. All are invited to run your own scenario analysis using your individual circumstances and metrics.
To depict a varying impact on the potential returns via a change in value of property and operating cash flows in each year, we have constructed three different scenarios. Under our base case assumptions, to emulate the performance of real estate fund floated during the real estate bubble phase, the purchased property records moderate appreciation in the early years, while the middle years witness steep declines (similar to the current CRE price corrections) with little recovery seen in the later years. The following table summarizes the assumptions under the base case.
Under the base case assumptions, the steep price declines not only wipes out the positive returns from the operating cash flows but also shaves off a portion of invested capital resulting in negative cumulated total returns earned for the real estate fund over the life of six years. However, owing to 60% leverage, the capital losses are magnified for the equity investors leading to massive erosion of equity capital. However, it is noteworthy that the returns vary substantially for LPs (contributing 90% of equity) and GP (contributing 10% of equity). It can be observed that the money collected in the form of management fees and acquisition fees more than compensates for the lost capital of the GP, eventually emerging with a net positive cash flow. On the other hand, steep declines in the value of real estate investments strip the LPs (investors) of their capital. The huge difference between the returns of GP and LPs and the factors behind this disconnect reinforces the conflict of interest between the fund managers and the investors in the fund.
Under the base case assumptions, the cumulated return of the fund and LPs is -6.75% and -55.86, respectively while the GP manages a positive return of 17.64%. Under a relatively optimistic case where some mild recovery is assumed in the later years (3% annual increase in year 5 and year 6), LP still loses a over a quarter of its capital invested while GP earns a phenomenal return. Under a relatively adverse case with 10% annual decline in year 5 and year 6, the LP loses most of its capital while GP still manages to breakeven by recovering most of the capital losses from the management and acquisition fees..
Anybody who is wondering who these investors are who are getting shafted should look no further than grandma and her pension fund or your local endowment funds…
More on the topic of commercial real estate in the US...