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Rating:Cohen & Steers Eyes the Continent Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, October 29, 2004

Cohen & Steers Eyes the Continent

Reported by Theresa Sim

In some eyes, Europe is the place to be. Executives at Cohen & Steers are among the believers, and are making moves into the still-developing Continental real estate market accordingly, said Martin Cohen, co-chairman and co-chief executive officer of the firm.

Cohen called the Europe real estate markets "one of our most important future growth opportunities" during the company's earnings call on Wednesday. The company has already approached several "major European intermediaries" about new real estate offerings, and characterized the reception as "very strong."

This quarter, Cohen & Steers continued to complete a 50 percent acquisition of Brussels-based Houlihan Rovers, part of the company's larger move into the global real estate market. The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter. Houlihan Rovers manages $483 million in assets.

The company's results this quarter were or $0.16 pro forma diluted earnings per share, or a loss of ($0.60) per diluted share, according to the release. The company realized a compensation charge of $46.0 million and an expense of $1.0 million related to the company's initial public offering on August 12.

Cohen & Steers reported assets under management for the third quarter at $16.1 billion, up $1.1 billion from the end of the second quarter, or up $5.6 billion from the same period last year. Almost all of the increase in assets under management -- $1.0 billion -- was due to appreciation in assets.

What might Cohen & Steers' future asset mix look like? According to comments by Cohen, the firm is making moves to diversify beyond real estate securities and closed-end funds.

Compared to a couple of years ago when most of the company's assets under management were real estate-related, the company has come a long way, said Cohen. At the end of the third quarter, non-real estate assets totaled $3 billion, or 18 percent of total assets under management.

"Non real estate assets are an increasingly important part of our focus and growth," said Cohen.

Cohen called the company's broad diversification strategy "very simple, focused and straightforward." "[We will] seek to expand our leading income-oriented equity franchise through product and market expansion," said Cohen. That could entail hiring new portfolio managers with equity income expertise, or perhaps acquisition. Cohen was mum on any announcements, but said the initiative was a "very active process for us."

The firm is also planning on launching several open-ended funds targeted to the institutional market, said Cohen. The company's moves to diversify assets does not mean that it will leave the closed-end sphere unguarded -- "[we are] absolutely going to market in the closed-end fund channel as aggressively as we have," said Cohen.

In the near term, Cohen said the firm is planning additional preferred share offerings for five closed-end funds and the registration of a Dividend Majors fund.

Cohen & Steers also landed a subadvisory contract for a Japanese-investor fund offered by Daiwa, and a consulting contract for three new unit investment trusts offered by Van Kampen, said Cohen. Cohen & Steers will receive a consulting fee in the first year and a trail (as a percent of assets) for subsequent years, said Cohen. Cohen said the Van Kampen business -- Cohen & Steers currently manages 14 UITs for the company -- as an "ongoing source of business" for the firm

In order to implement Cohen & Steer's grand plan, executives have focused on deepening relationships in "key distribution channels" and adding to its sales force this quarter, said Cohen. John McCombe, director of marketing for the firm, did not immediately return a calling seeking comment about new hires.

Cohen highlighted the firm's newly renamed Realty Focus Fund as one of the firm's key sales maneuvers. The firm is betting that the fund will gain in sales following a recent conversion to a load fund and placement into broker dealer channel, the firm's "most powerful investment channel," said Cohen.

Cohen and Robert Steers, co-chairman and co-chief executive officer, said they expected flows in the fund to increase "because we have a very strong presence and brand name." They added, "having a sales force out there that is actively marketing it…will materially improve the flows of that fund."

Although a load fund could result in more expenses for the company, Cohen and Steers said that the company earns 90 basis points for managing the fund, higher than the 75 basis points earned on many of its other funds.  

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