Macy’s Inc. might have gotten a pass from Jeffrey Smith this year — the deadline for a proxy fight at the retailer’s annual meeting has come and gone — but the activist is keeping close watch on the retailer, which he said continues to be undervalued.
Smith, who is chief executive officer of Starboard Value and has been needling Macy’s to get more value out of its real estate, said Tuesday that the company still wasn’t getting credit for its real estate.
“From where it is today, Macy’s is undervalued,” Smith said on CNBC, the equivalent of Wall Street’s water cooler. “You’re talking about $19 billion roughly in enterprise value and you have $20 billion-plus in real estate value at the company.”
Smith praised some of the company’s recent moves, such moves to eliminate “hundreds of millions of cost” and the appointment of real estate expert and ceo of Four Corners Property Trust William Lenehan to its board.
“He ran our real estate process at Darden and successfully did the spin-off of Four Corners…and we worked with Macy’s to get Bill on the board and to help them with their real estate process.”
Last year was a tough one for Macy’s and many retailers, but the value Smith sees at Macy’s isn’t necessarily in its retailing business.
“As it relates to what happened in the past year, it wasn’t necessarily the de-mall-ification of America, I don’t think,” Smith said. “But I do think that last year was difficult for department stores and for retailers and so we got caught up in that and I think part of it was weather, part of it was…currencies and hopefully things get better fundamentally as it relates to the company.”
Tellingly, he added: “But either way, we’re talking about a lot of real estate value at the company.”
Smith has been busy pushing for change at Yahoo, which is in the midst of its own transformation and appears to be working with Macy’s management and board and not against it.
Macy’s is holding its annual meeting on May 20 and, according to the company’s by-laws, shareholders wanting to bring any business to the gathering must do so with at least 60 days notice.