Sunday, February 6, 2011

Push Back and Protest Bids

Before I get to the point of this post I’d like to introduce our new web site:

1150 Investments LLC was formed in 4Q 2010 to carry on and expand the TRE buying activity of The Interface Financial Group, LLC.

I invite any members of the TRE “family” to link to our site, which also contains a link to this blog.

Now to the point:

I’ve written several times since last September about the impact of increased liquidity on buy-side TRE auction yields. The trajectory of buy-side yields has been steeply negative since the last week of August 2010.

We’ve wondered when and at what level resistance might ultimately be encountered.

It appears that the answer to “When?” might now be developing.

Just as it took some time to confirm that the downward trajectory constituted a trend, it will take some time to confirm that the situation has changed again. But it IS beginning to look like we might have reached a point where stability is being sought.

That doesn’t say that returns to Buyers are rising but it MIGHT signal that they’ve stopped falling.

Over the past week or so we’ve begun to see some auctions stay on the screen for appreciably longer periods than has been the case for some time now. Many of those have ultimately sold at buy-out pricing but they haven’t sold as QUICKLY at that pricing as they might have a month ago.

Even some of the Sellers that have become accustomed to split-second sales at ever-decreasing cost have gotten some modestly chilly receptions recently.

Buyers of these auctions, while still willing to buy, have begun to place bids more often at levels higher than the buy-out prices. More often now we’re seeing several competing bidders “walking” the pricing down to the point of ultimate sale.

As to the questions of: “Where?” the trend might end, I can’t use absolute numbers under the confidentiality rules of the Exchange but I can say that our own calculations of dollar-weighted average returns for all TRE auctions have fallen by about 38% since September 2010. That’s a substantial reduction that cannot, in my opinion, be attributed (at least wholly) to decreased risk perception.

While there are quite a few Sellers that have proven themselves over that period and should reasonably command better pricing; when the entire auction portfolio is considered, a large part of the return decline, I believe, has to be attributed to increased market liquidity in the face of only modestly increasing supply.

If that is true, then there should be scope for a retracement of at least a portion of the yield declines of the past 5 months. IF and when, of course, supply begins to catch up with demand.

The type of bidding that I’ve described above, that requires a Seller to wait a while before closing a transaction and involves a process where actual BIDDING occurs, as opposed to immediate buy-outs, I call “push-back” bidding. Especially in the face of declining buy-out parameters.

The Buyers are not inclined to immediately accept whatever is offered at whatever price is asked.

But there’s another type of bidding that has also become evident in recent days. I call it “protest” bidding.

Protest bids have been showing up recently in cases where Sellers post auctions with pricing that is SO low that some Buyers express their annoyance by registering a bid SO far out of the money that it can only be interpreted as a message to the Seller.

The message is “WHAT are you thinking!” (Or, maybe “What are you smoking!”) And certainly conveys the message “Not ME, my friend!”

I must say that I find these protest bids refreshing. They are really the only way Buyers can communicate to Sellers, to other Buyers and to TRE that what they see on the screen is beyond what they consider rational.

SO……while it’s too early to call a trend change, there ARE some signs in the market that we might be nearing the end of the free-fall in yields that began last September.

From my point of view, that would be healthy for all concerned.

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