Investing Advice: Billionaire Investor Has a Warning

Posted On May 1, 2018 1:59 pm

Billionaire Real Estate magnate Sam Zell is known best for two things: speaking his mind, often using salty language, and impeccable market timing. In 2007, at the peak of the bubble, he unloaded his entire real estate portfolio to Blackstone. And today he has some unique investing advice for us.

He has once again become a net seller of property, and has been appearing on financial media to unload truth bombs regarding the current state of both stock and real estate markets. He doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

On CNBC, when asked about retail real estate here in the US,  Zell explained the significant excess inventory in the U.S., 4-5x more per capita than Europe, and said investing in the space right now is like catching a falling knife. Here are some choice quotes:

“Like a falling knife.  You start with the fact that the U.S. has 4 or 5 times the amount of square footage per person of retail as anywhere else in the world.  So we start with an enourmously large inventory of retail.”

“3 years ago your could buy an 8% mall…you could buy a B-mall and it was probably an 8% cap rate.  The same mall, 3 years later, is now selling at 13% and 14%.  So you’ve seen enourmous erosion of value.”

“When the knife falls there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for people to step up and say ‘what are alternate uses?'”

Pressed on whether now just might be the time to take a contrarian view on the collapsing retail space, Zell again was unable to satiate the desires for positive news from his eager hosts.

“An area that’s in this much disarray, with so many weak players, is not an area where I would want to deploy capital at this time,” Zell said. “And I’m generally a contrarian, but I think what we’re dealing with here is very significant.”

Over on MarketWatch, an article covering Zell’s perspective expands on broader topics.

The Trump administration is delaying those steel tariffs for a bunch of allies, but there isn’t much letup in Iran-Israel tensions at the moment — or in North Korea-related posturing.

And the Dominican Republican is snagging a bit of the spotlight today, as it disses Taiwan and cozies up to China.

But the market just might shrug at all the geopolitical turmoil and instead focus on what really matters: How many iPhones has Apple sold?

“Given the negative bias to the markets, a downbeat guidance from Apple could prove too much,” warns London Capital Group’s Jasper Lawler, as he braces for the company’s earnings after the close.

 Related: Is Recession Already Here? Here’s What You Need to Know. 

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Steve Smith

Steve Smith have been involved in all facets of the investment industry in a variety of roles ranging from speculator, educator, manager and advisor. This has taken him from the trading floors of Chicago to hedge funds on Wall Street to the world online. From 1987 to 1996, he served as a market maker at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) and Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). From 1997 to 2007, he was a Senior Columnist and Managing Editor for TheStreet.com, handling their Option Alert and Short Report newsletters. The Option Alert was awarded the MIN “best business newsletter” in 2006. From 2009 to 2013, Smith was a Senior Columnist and Managing Editor for Minyanville’s OptionSmith newsletter, as well as a Risk Manager Consultant for New Vernon Capital LLC. Smith acted as an advisor to build models and option strategies to reduce portfolio exposure and enhance returns for the four main funds. Since 2015, he has worked for Adam Mesh Trading Group. There, he has managed Options360 and Earning 360, been co-leader of Option Academy, and contributed to The Option Specialist website.

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