Forget Facebook: Investors Like Real Estate

  Credit to: David Weidner

  Interest in Facebook Inc. since its calamitous initial public offering has mirrored interest in the social-networking site: Investors and users are still hanging around, but they’re less enthusiastic.

And just as users have cooled to the increasingly ad-laden experience of posting their favorite meals, musings and minutiae, investors have cooled to initial public offerings. Facebook’s FB +0.96%  still stands as the biggest IPO of the young decade in terms of sheer spectacle. Nothing really comes close.

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Facebook’s stands as the biggest IPO of the young decade in terms of sheer spectacle — and nothing really comes close.

Facebook’s experience, however, hasn’t exactly cast a pall on the IPO market. The bull market is fueling a stock-offering renaissance. IPO volume for the last four weeks is up 59% from the same period last year to $2.93 billion, according to Dealogic.

But it’s the type of IPO that’s changed. Real-estate and property offerings are up nearly 40% from last year’s rates to more than $14 billion. Health-care offerings have climbed from just under $7 billion to nearly $10 billion.

Technology stocks have surged, too. But their performance has been lackluster when compared with other industries. Tech IPOs in 2013 are up 39.2%, compared with a 58% gain for transportation and a 60% gain for forestry and paper. Even the downtrodden financial sector has produced 26.6% in IPO gains.

The sample sizes may be small, but the rise in non tech IPOs and their relative performance underscore a bigger trend away from clicks and toward bricks. That is: Traditional industries — what we used to call old-economy companies — are finding favor with investors, particularly those burned by Facebook’s flameout.

And no industry has beneftted from this shift more than real estate. In a sign of the changing tide, two home builders, Taylor Morrison Home Corp. and TRI Pointe homes Inc., filed for IPOs at the end of 2012 — the first home-builder IPOs since 2004.

Companies such as Enova International, Nationstar Mortgage NSM +2.65%  (a stock that’s up 150% during the last year), Homeloan Servicing Solutions and even Ally Financial ALFI +0.21%  registered for follow-on offerings in the fourth quarter, according to Ernst & Young.

Last week, Aviv REIT Inc. AVIV -1.11% , a sort of double play in that it finances long-term skilled-nursing facilities, priced an IPO that raised $264 million and gained 14% its first day in the market. Another real-estate offering, Five Oaks Investment Corp. OAKS -1.39% , which invests in residential-mortgage-backed securities, raised $61 million.

Forget Facebook; IPO investors like real estate

After Facebook Inc.’s calamitous IPO, investors are now looking less at the Internet and more at real estate to put their money in, MarketWatch’s David Weidner reports.

And more are on the way. American Residential Properties, a REIT specializing in single-family properties, just filed for an offering raising up to $300 million.

But be warned: These are hardly sure winners. For instance, eight consecutive IPOs for REITs dealing in mortgages have seen their share prices fall on the first day of trading. And through last Friday, the performance of all IPOs has been 17% in total return, with just 4% of that aftermarket, according to Renaissance Capital.

If all of this has a déjà vu feel, it’s not your mind playing tricks. A certain social-networking company seemed to be building toward an IPO climax that turned out to be, well, anticlimactic.

In the same way, much of the money in housing and real-estate investments probably also has been made. Of course, investors could look at indirect plays such as banks and materials stocks, many of which are still relatively undervalued.

The problem, of course, is that those Industries carry their own baggage. Materials companies don’t always prosper with a real-estate revival. Banks are still digging out from the legal morass left by the last housing boom.

Ultimately, even considering its recent history, real estate does have one advantage over the alternatives. People tend to need homes, and many love them. A social network, on the other hand …

When it comes to investing, it might be better to go with something people need and love, rather than simply “like.”



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