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The First Big Real Estate IPO Of The Year Is NGKF


The first commercial real estate firm IPO in 2017 will come from BGC Partners, which is taking Newmark Grubb Knight Frank public.

Howard Lutnick, the head of Cantor Fitzgerald and chairman of Newmark

BGC filed a confidential statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and will offer Class A common stock in a new subsidiary holding its real estate services business.

BGC posted record earnings last year — $108M — and in this week's earnings call, chairman and CEO Howard Lutnick attributed that in part to the highest revenues ever generated from NGKF's real estate capital markets business. 

According to an official statement from BGC, the IPO is part of the firm's plan to separate its real estate services business into a separate public company. The number of shares to be offered and the price range have not been determined.

After the offering, "BGC may, subject to market and other conditions, distribute the shares that BGC will hold of the newly formed subsidiary pro rata to BGC’s stockholders in a manner intended to qualify as tax-free for U.S. federal income tax purposes." 

Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.'s John Guinee — a noted REIT analyst — said the biggest benefit of taking NGKF public is that it gives executives a liquid vehicle to compensate top performers and brokers with shares. A commercial real estate brokerage firm is only as good as its team members, or "elevator assets."

"The assets of Newmark, CB[RE] or JLL go up and down the elevator every day,” Guinee said.

And with shares openly traded on Wall Street, it prevents situations where senior partners looking to retire at companies with privately traded shares try to sell their holdings at one price while the younger partners want to instead pay a lower price. “It avoids a bid-ask gap,” he said.

New York City-based BGC Partners appears to have beaten a rival brokerage firm to the punch, as there has been speculation that Cushman & Wakefield, the third-biggest brokerage firm in the world, would file an IPO this year, potentially in Q3.

BCG has not returned calls for comment at this time.

This article will be updated as this is a developing story.