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NEW YORK CITY—Despite a relative paucity of sales transactions, there are some signs that fundraising for future net lease property investment is beginning to ratchet up, or at least that there are hopes among some would-be fundraisers. One non-traded REIT and several private funds are among the new investment entities focused on the net lease sector to have been launched in recent months.

Last month Angelo, Gordon & Co., the New York City-based alternative investment advisor, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a private placement fund, dubbed AG Net Lease Realty Fund II LP. The filing indicates that there is no predetermined limit to how much equity the fund will seek to raise, but $1 million is the minimum investment. As of the June 30 filing, no sales of the fund had yet occurred.

Gordon Whiting, founder, managing director and chief portfolio manager of Angelo, Gordon’s net lease group, confirms “we are in the market raising a new net lease fund.” The focus will be on sale-leasebacks with less-than-investment-grade tenants, the same market segment the group has focused on in the past. Whiting says he is confident there is “tremendous opportunity” ahead in the market.

“There is a gap between the bid and the ask, but at the end of the day, a sale-leaseback is an alternative form of financing” for companies that don’t have many if any other options, Whiting says. “I think there are a lot of opportunities that are coming… Sellers are now realizing this is where the market is. They’re running out of time. There’s a lot of debt that’s coming due.”

In addition, on July 13, Angelo, Gordon filed a registration statement with the SEC for AG Financial Investment Trust Inc. That entity, which expects to qualify as a REIT and trade on the New York Stock Exchange, seeks a maximum of $300 million in its initial public offering. According to the filing, AG Financial Investment Trust’s target investments will consist of “a diversified portfolio of real estate-related securities, triple-net lease assets, mortgage assets and various other financial assets.” It describes the net lease investments it expects to make as “fee interests and participation interests in triple-net leases with investment grade tenants,” but it could also invest in triple-net leases with non-investment grade tenants as well.

The filing indicates that it expects the REIT to be initially weighted towards non-agency CMBS and RMBS and triple-net lease assets, but that over time it expects the portfolio to be increasingly focused on CMBS and other real estate-related debt assets.

Meanwhile, using a publicly registered but non-traded REIT structure, Griffin Capital Corp. of El Segundo, CA has filed a registration statement for The GC Net Lease REIT Inc., which could raise as much as $750 million in equity plus more via a distribution reinvestment plan. The REIT plans “to primarily invest in single-tenant net-lease properties diversified by corporate credit, physical geography, product type and lease duration,” according to the May 12 filing with the SEC. Leases are generally expected to have seven to 15-year terms, the filing states, and other acquisition criteria will include properties that are critical to a tenant’s business operations and properties leased to tenants with stable and/or improving credit quality.

According to the filing, Griffin Capital affiliates, including president Kevin Shields and VP of acquisitions Don Pescara, expect to seed the REIT with two single-tenant properties totaling 743,000 square feet and valued at $54.7 million ($20.5 million of which is equity) in exchange for 2.05 million units in the REIT’s operating partnership. The company already has issued 129,132 shares via a private offering that commenced in February; according to the filing, the private offering will be terminated upon commencement of the publicly registered offering. The REIT’s registration has not yet been declared effective.

Back on the private fund side of the business, there are at least two other net lease property funds gearing up. One is AEI Secured Income Fund 35 LP, a $600-million fund offering sponsored by AEI Capital Corp. of St. Paul, MN. Minimum investment is $1 million and the fund is a no-load fund for institutional investors only. Endowments, pension plans and foundations are the target investors, AEI founder and president Robert Johnson tells GlobeSt.com.

The fund will continue AEI’s historical focus on mostly retail net lease properties and all-cash ownership. The company has more typically raised equity from retail investors through the broker-dealer network. It currently has one public offering and one private offering on the street–but this newest fund represents only the second time in its 35-year history that AEI has formed a fund specifically for institutional investors. “The reason we’re looking there is the reality that it’s very expensive to raise money through the brokerage system” while still delivering “yields that are competitive and risk adjusted,” Johnson says.

And a smaller fund that is geared to individual retail investors is the Ford Properties Group Net Leased Portfolio Fund III LLC, sponsored by Stuart, FL-based Ford Investment Group LLC. It is targeting a maximum offering amount of $10 million for approximately $33 million of triple-net lease real estate, says Ford’s chief investment officer Mark Daday. The offering could be extended to $20 million. Retail properties with national or super-regional tenants are its chief targets, though it also will consider office buildings with medical/healthcare-related tenants. Target markets are east of the Mississippi. The fund already owns four assets: one Rite Aid drugstore and three Jiffy Lube quick-lube properties.

“It’s a tough time to raise equity, no doubt,” acknowledges Daday, but he thinks that is going to begin to improve this fall. “You want to be buying when prices are down. You want to be raising equity when the market is on the way up,” he says.

Other companies might like to raise new equity for net lease investment platforms, too. And this could be a good time to, since new funds will likely face less competition on deals than they would have in recent years and also do not face the challenges legacy portfolios may have to contend with. But fundraising can be easier said than done and, as one net lease market expert recently told GlobeSt.com, is likely “to be a long process in this market.”

“I think you’ll probably see a couple more funds out there,” predicts Angelo, Gordon’s Whiting. “The question is whether they’ll be able to raise” the capital.

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