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PHOENIX—Cole Credit Property Trust III Inc., a non-traded REIT affiliate of locally based Cole Real Estate Investments, is finding its ability to purchase properties all-cash is giving it a competitive edge. During the month of June, it closed on sale-leasebacks with Aaron Rents Inc. and Academy Sports entities totaling $45.33 million and Wednesday it closed on another sizeable sale-leaseback with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., among other deals currently in its pipeline.

“Given the current environment, where there’s a lack of liquidity in the marketplace, we’re in a good situation. There are not a lot of all-cash buyers currently in the market,” Cole chief marketing officer John Towle tells GlobeSt.com. “This provides us with more negotiation room.” In addition, because of the capital constrained environment, the REIT’s investors benefit from being able to buy properties at “historically discounted prices,” Towle adds.

According to a June 29 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the REIT, CCPT III, paid $10.93 million for a portfolio of eight Aaron Rents retail properties totaling 103,041 square feet. They were leased back under a 15-year master lease agreement, plus four five-year renewal options. Initial annual base rent is slightly more than $909,000, with 10% increases every five years.

CCPT III also acquired four Academy Sports stores, each measuring 86,000 square feet of rentable space, for a total purchase price of $34.4 million. “The buildings are brand new, which definitely makes it appealing, the leases are 20 years and the credit quality is high,” Towle says. The SEC filing notes that the Academy Sports leases have four five-year renewal options and that the combined base annual rent is more than $2.94 million.

No debt was used in the Aaron Rents and Academy Sports acquisitions. As for the possibility of putting debt on the properties down the road, Towle says “it’s a possibility, but right now there are no plans to do so.”

CCPT III did, however, recently secure $29.89 million of fixed-rate mortgage financing for four net-leased and ground-leased properties it acquired earlier in the year, according to recent SEC filings. The loans, from Aviva Life & Annuity Co., are fixed at 6.45%, mature in 2013 and are interest-only for the first 24 months before switching to payments based on a 25-year amortization, according to a filing. Furthermore, the loans are cross-defaulted and cross-collateralized and are “generally non-recourse.”

If and when debt is being applied to its purchases, Cole is “using intermediate financing, because it’s generally less expensive and more reasonable than the longer-term financing,” Towle says.

Meanwhile fundraising for CCPT III, which launched in January, has been gathering steam. Towle tells GlobeSt.com that since its launch the REIT has averaged about $60 million of equity raise a month, with the figure roughly $75 million in May and $80 million in June. He credits the healthy investor interest to Cole’s “tried-and-true” investment model focused on top quality necessity retailers and long term leases of typically 20 to 25 years.

CCPT III has purchased approximately $250 million of properties year-to-date (companywide for Cole, the figure is about $400 million). Its purchase of the Cracker Barrel portfolio—encompassing a distribution center and 14 stores—totals approximately $54 million. And, according to a June 29 filing with the SEC, CCPT III has another approximately $50 million of potential property acquisitions in its pipeline, including properties occupied by Walgreens, LA Fitness, HH Gregg, Kohl’s and Tractor Supply.

Cracker Barrel issued a press release yesterday morning it announcing the closing of the sale-leaseback of a distribution center and 14 store locations, plus the expected closing of fifteenth store. The aggregate gross proceeds are expected to be approximately $57.6 million, Cracker Barrel said, with the deals “the result of a competitive bidding process.” Net proceeds will be used to reduce outstanding debt.

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