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HOUSTON-The newly formed Hines REIT, armed with an SEC approval, is ready to launch is first offering, 220 million shares. The stock run, targeting a $2.2-billion capital infusion, marks the first time the Houston-based real estate giant has opened doors to equity from the stock-trading public.

The common stock offering consists of 200 million shares at $10 each and another 20 million shares at $9.50 apiece under a dividend reinvestment plan. REIT investors must have a minimum annual income of $45,000, net worth of $150,000 and be willing to buy a minimum, 250 shares for $2,500.

The REIT plans to use up to 90% of the gross proceeds from the initial offering to start buying properties. According to the SEC prospectus, target acquisitions will be CBD or suburban markets in major metropolitan cities. Like others in pursuit of office product, the plan is to chase high-quality properties with key locations, substantial amenities and quality tenants. The REIT will leverage up to 50% of the aggregate value of the real estate investments. In the past decade, Hines has raised $6.7 billion in equity for 45 privately offered real estate programs.

Hines REIT Inc., announced in October 2003, has been structured as a Maryland corporation. Jeffrey Hines, based at the Houston headquarters, is head of the REIT’s advisory board. In a 2003 interview with GlobeSt.com, Keith D. Allaire, managing director with Shrewsbury, NJ-based Robert A. Stanger & Co. and Hines’ adviser, said the advantage to a direct participation program is investors are not subject to the sharp fluctuations of the stock market because the shares’ value is based on the total value of the REIT’s assets. The disadvantage is it is not a very liquid investment. In the Hines prospectus, potential investors were forewarned the offering’s private nature will make it difficult to sell shares or they may have to do so at a substantial discount.

Another downside is the possibility for a conflict of interest in “competition for tenant and leasing opportunities” with Hines’ privately owned portfolio as well as the allocation of personnel and resources. Allaire said possible conflicts can be mitigated by alternating opportunities between competing programs or embed a slight change in the acquisitions focus.

But, Allaire emphasized, there is ample opportunity for small investors, who for the first time can tap Hines’ highly successful real estate expertise and resources. “To have a firm of Hines’ caliber, experience and reputation make this product available, is an important milestone for the direct participation industry,” he said.

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