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CHICAGO-Global information technology firm Unisys Corp. disposed of a 356,000-square-foot suburban Philadelphia office property in a $19.5-million sale-leaseback that closed late last year. But unlike your traditional sale-leaseback transaction, in which the seller continues to occupy the entirety of a facility, Unisys leased back only about half of the space at the Malvern, PA asset.

Such partial sale-leasebacks aren’t an entirely new phenomenon, but they appear to be on the rise, at a time when increased interest in sale-leasebacks in general is anticipated.

“A lot of corporations have identified that using a sale-leaseback is a great way to take capital they have tied up in real estate and invest that in their business,” says Jones Lang LaSalle capital markets senior vice president Suzanne Martinez, who along with managing director Mindy Berman and corporate solutions SVP Ken Zirk represented Unisys in its deal.

In many instances, flexibility is a key motivator behind companies pursuing partial sale-leasebacks, Martinez says. In the case of Unisys, which had only been utilizing about half the space at the property, “doing a partial sale-leaseback in this instance allowed them to lower their operating expenses,” she adds, “and at the same time capitalize on the fact that that was great real estate in a good market.” A joint venture of Exeter Property Group and Strategic Realty Investments LLC was the purchaser of the Unisys property.

Martinez and two JLL colleagues are now heading up the marketing of Motorola’s five-building, 1.1-million-square-foot Arlington Heights campus in suburban Chicago. The office and flex buildings are being sold either as a portfolio or individually. As part of its right-sizing effort, Motorola plans to continue to occupy three buildings in the northern section of the campus with long-term staggered lease terms, and to occupy one of the two southern campus building short term, through June of 2010. A call for offers is expected to be later this month.

Meanwhile, another JLL team has been marketing a partial sale-leaseback of two New Jersey buildings for Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., and offers are currently in the best and final round stage. The retailer is looking to lease back all of its 730,392-square-foot Edgewater Park Distribution Facility in Beverly for 15 years on a triple-net basis, with annual rent escalations and renewal options. It also wants to lease back about 380,000 square feet of its 521,441-square-foot Burlington Coat Factory Distribution Facility, in Burlington, for a 10-year term (also with rent escalations and renewal options) to use as its corporate headquarters. The remainder of the space in that facility will be vacated by July.

Given the inherent repositioning aspect of partial leaseback deals, traditional sale-leaseback investors are not typically attracted to these kinds of transactions, says Martinez. Rather, value-add players are the more likely bidders, but they are attracted to having a stabilized rental income stream component while repositioning efforts for the remainder of the space are undertaken.

Partial or whole, any number of market experts predict that sale-leasebacks will be an increasingly used corporate real estate strategy this year as companies look for ways to shave costs, raise capital and otherwise strengthen their balance sheets.

New York City-based market research provider Real Capital Analytics notes in its February Capital Trends Monthly reports that owner/occupiers are likely to be parties to an increasing share of transactions this year, both as buyers and sellers. On the sell side, “the increase in dealmaking stems not only from dispositions of excess/vacant property, but also from sale-leasebacks,” RCA notes. “For some companies, sale-leaseback may be the preferred–or only–method for raising capital at present.”

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