As other retail stocks struggled during a volatile trading day, shares of Macy’s Inc. was one of the stocks that bucked the trend — finishing the day with a 2.5 percent gain to close at $39.73 in Big Board trading.
The gain brings Macy’s market capitalization to $12.49 billion. That’s still far below the $21 billion that activist investor Starboard Value had pegged last year as the total valuation for Macy’s real estate. On Tuesday, Greenlight Capital, a hedge fund founded by David Einhorn, said it took a stake in the retailer, suggesting that perhaps a private equity firm could team up with a real estate investment trust to take the company private and unlock the value of its real estate holdings.
It’s unclear how big a position Greenlight has taken in the retailer, or whether it intends to hold conversations with Macy’s management.
Starboard’s Jeffrey Smith last week reached out to Macy’s chairman and chief executive officer Terry J. Lundgren and chief financial officer Karen M. Hoguet, urging the retailer to find additional ways to cut expenses. Earlier this month, the retailer said it would cut $400 million in expenses and consider ideas such as the creation of real estate joint ventures.
On Tuesday, Lundgren told CNBC’s Squawk Box that the company was looking to hire an in-house real estate expert that could help the company rethink the opportunities connected with its real estate, as well as how to make its big-box stores more productive.
Lundgren said if he could find a way to do that without “leveraging up the company” and still be investment grade, “we’re all over those ideas.”
The concern over the impact different REIT scenarios could have on Macy’s financial flexibility was raised last year by credit analysts at Moody’s Investors’ Service, which cited the “potential long-term burden for Macy’s rental obligations.”
Lundgren also said while on Squawk Box that Macy’s Backstage, its new discount concept, would be located in some of the retailer’s existing stores.