USA activist investor seeks shakeup at Hudson's Bay

A woman holds a Hudson's Bay shopping bag in front of the Hudson's Bay Company flagship department store in Toronto

HBC's leading banners across North America and Europe include Hudson's Bay, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gilt, Saks OFF 5TH, Galeria Kaufhof, the largest department store group in Germany, and Belgium's only department store group Galeria INNO.

Shares of Hudson's Bay Company jumped nearly 13 per cent on Monday after a minority shareholder said the retailer should consider selling its real estate holdings or consider a privatization by management.

Land & Buildings founder and chief investment officer Jonathan Litt said the firm has watched HBC's efforts to strike a merger deal with Neiman Marcus or Macy's, and has seen the company recently announce a restructuring as it tries to deal with changes forces in the retail market. To date, the only result of these efforts has been the stock declining almost 25% since the deal talks surfaced, and the Company announcing last Thursday that it would be undertaking a massive $350 million restructuring to realign its own business "to get ahead of the changing retail landscape". (HBAYF) and is considering strategies including taking the retailer private or redeveloping its vast real estate holdings, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Land & Buildings noted that NYC Saks Fifth Avenue location alone has been independently valued at about C$5 billion or C$16 a share.

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"This drastic public markets mispricing is why Hudson's Bay should evaluate all strategic options to maximize value for shareholders, including monetization or repurposing of real estate or the company being taken private by management", Land & Buildings said.

The Saks Fifth Avenue location in NY could be valued at C$5 billion ($3.8 billion) alone, Litt said.

HBC has significant investments in real estate joint ventures. And while it doesn't know chairman Richard Baker well, others speak highly of him. "If there is a smarter and better use of any or all of the locations, stores should be closed and redeveloped and put towards their optimal use", he added. The activist investor has suggested selling some of the retailer's prime real estate to be developed into hotels or office buildings. (TSX:HBC) is facing investor pressure to get more value from its real estate assets, even if that means closing stores including its "crown jewel" locations.

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