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DALLAS-In an opportunistic play, the joint venture buyers of Centex Corp.’s 27-property portfolio in 11 states already are huddling over opportunities to flip or possibly partner on finishing touches for their $161-million land purchase. At least $200 million will be invested into finishing what Centex started.

Centex placed a $528-million book value on the properties, assessing its take-home pay would be $455 million due to an anticipated tax refund of $294 million. Few details about the deal surfaced during Centex’s conference call. But, Chris Mahowald, managing partner of Dallas-based RSF Partners Inc., filled in the gaps for the most part.

The 8,500 lots, in various development stages, are situated in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Virginia. The portfolio includes Plant 51, a see-through 265-unit condo and loft project at 734 The Alameda in San Jose, CA and the rest is land earmarked for attached single-family townhouses and detached traditional houses.

“We’ve had a lot of calls from people especially interested in buying some of these projects,” Mahowald tells GlobeSt.com. “It all comes down to price. If the price is right, we’ll do it.” And if all is held, he says build-outs will range from three to 10 years depending on project and location. He says the JV is prepared to pump more than $200 million into readying the lots for development and resale.

Mahowald says he bought a number of Centex lots in the past, knew an auction process was starting in early January and contacted San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management LLC about teaming. Farallon in turn asked South Norwalk, CT-based Greenfield Partners LLC if it wanted to join, setting up a funding vehicle for an all-cash close and partners in each region for pieces of the portfolio.

Dallas-based Centex didn’t return telephone calls by deadline to comment on the deal. Centex has a 5% interest in the joint venture and options to 350 lots, but there are indications that it could be putting homes on far more than that. Mahowald wouldn’t confirm nor deny that Centex will be one of the homebuilders for the JV’s developed lots.

Mahowald says it’s unlikely the JV will do any bricks-and-mortar development, but he’s not ruling it out or the possibility of adding a development partner. “We’re going to look at everything,” he says, “but this is a lot development investment not necessarily a homebuilding investment.”

The RSF-Farallon-Greenfield partnership’s role will be to oversee land development. The portfolio consists of raw acreage, partially finished and finished lots. Centex didn’t exit any markets with the sale, but roughly 50% of the portfolio is situated in California and Nevada. Plant 51 is a historic Del Monte packing factory-warehouse structure built in 1913 in Downtown San Jose.

Goldman Sachs & Co. and JP Morgan Securities Inc. ran the auction for Centex. The deal resulted in a 10% reduction in Centex’s owned lots and eliminated nearly $265 million of future development costs related to the properties. Centex still owns roughly 80,000 lots in the US.

Centex has been selling divisions for the past year. One of the first to go was its construction group to UK-based Balfour Beatty plc. for $362 million in February 2007. In tandem with the land sale, it also sold a pest services division. During yesterday’s call with analysts, Centex’s executive team made it clear that the goal is to pare back its land positions. “We are taking decisive action to make sure Centex emerges from this cycle in a positive cash position,” says Centex chairman and CEO Timothy R. Eller.

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