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Tuesday, North American real estate edition

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Stifel analysts John Guinee, Erin Aslakson and Aaron Wolf upgraded Cousins Properties Inc. to "buy" from "hold" and increased their per-share price target on the company's stock to $10.50 from $8.50.

The analysts said in a July 31 note that they expect, among other things, that the company's forthcoming delivery of more than $500 million of development projects will create value and that Cousins, together with Highwoods Properties Inc., could take the lion's share of build-to-suit opportunities in the major Sunbelt markets in the future.

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In a separate same-day note, the Stifel analyst trio lowered their investment opinion of Corporate Office Properties Trust to "sell" from "hold" and lowered their price target on the stock to $29 from $33 per share.

The analysts cited persistently weak leasing economics, the company's "very aggressive" real estate valuation metrics and its relatively high stock valuation metrics compared with other low-barrier office real estate investment trusts as reasons for the downgrade. They also believe that "any defense/IT leasing done in new development or re-leasing is subject to a very bottom line oriented [request for proposal] process."

Reiterations

Mizuho Securities USA LLC's Richard Anderson, in a July 31 note, kept his "neutral" rating on Corporate Office Properties and reduced his price target on the stock to $35 from $38.

Anderson said he still sees Corporate Office Properties as a niche office REIT "that has turned the corner in a positive way" and lauded management for "the level of intel it brings to the table" on the business operations front and on communicating these themes to the Street. The analyst also said he expects the company's core portfolio focus, after its recent exit from the White Marsh submarket of Baltimore County, to yield more stable internal growth and that the anticipated increased federal defense spending should provide it with an external growth upside.


In an Aug. 1 note, Canaccord Genuity analyst Paul Morgan reiterated Simon Property Group Inc. at "buy," stressing that the company's impressive second-quarter results counter the prevailing "mall is dying" narrative. His per-share price target on the company's stock is $219.

The increase in Simon's same-store net operating income and other core metrics during the second quarter highlights the regional mall REIT giant's "portfolio quality, economies of scale and operational strengths," Morgan said.


After the company posted mixed second-quarter results, Canaccord Genuity's Ryan Meliker maintained his "hold" rating on Education Realty Trust Inc., while lowering the per-share price target on the stock to $41 from $42.

Meliker said in a July 31 note that the company beat the consensus estimate with its second-quarter funds from operations, kept its FFO outlook the same and scored two new development projects during the quarter. However, the company's Avid Square development at Oklahoma State University faced further delays and it lowered its same-store revenue and NOI guidance to below the previous range.

The analyst added that he sees limited upside for the stock heading into 2018 as he believes the company will experience modest net operating income growth and minimal growth in FFO per share during that year.


Ladenburg Thalmann analysts Daniel Donlan and John Massocca reiterated their "buy" rating on Safety Income and Growth Inc., saying their favorable bias toward the recently IPO-ed REIT stems from its differentiated and exclusive focus on ground net leases, or GNLs, that they believe is helping management to market the company to prospective GNL sellers.

The analysts also kept their price target on the stock at $22 per share, citing the company's roughly $1.1 billion investment pipeline, its strong growth potential in terms of earnings and dividends, and its "highly secure" ground rent stream in a July 31 note.


FBR Capital Markets & Co.'s Bryan Maher and Wendy Ma kept their rating on Government Properties Income Trust at "outperform," after the company's second-quarter earnings reflected a solid beat to the analysts' estimates.

The duo posited in an Aug. 1 note that Government Properties' modest acquisition activity over the past year, which largely contributed to its increased rental income during the second quarter, is likely to "ramp up materially" with the company's proposed $1.4 billion buyout of First Potomac Realty Trust. They also think the market overreacted on the downside to the company's 25 million-common-share offering meant to finance the acquisition.