The Howard Hughes Corp. (NYSE: HHC) announced Dec. 30 that it will be closing out 2019 with one of the largest office deals of the year.
The company has agreed to pay $565 million to acquire two office towers in The Woodlands totaling 1.4 million square feet of Class A office space as well as a 17-building campus in the Energy Corridor from Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY). The 63-acre campus in the Energy Corridor, which formerly housed the corporate headquarters of ConocoPhillips, comes with 1.3 million square feet of Class A office space, none of which is currently leased.
The deal also includes a 125,000-square-foot warehouse and 9.3 acres of developable land in The Woodlands Town Center that fronts Interstate 45 North.
The two office towers are known for being Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s twin-building headquarters in The Woodlands. The tower located at 1201 Lake Robbins Drive was previously called Anadarko Allison Tower, while the tower at 9950 Woodloch Forest Drive was called Anadarko Hackett Tower.
But after Anadarko was acquired by Occidental in August, the towers dropped the former company’s name from their moniker.
Howard Hughes said Occidental will maintain its presence in the buildings, which are now known as The Woodlands Towers at The Waterway. Occidental has agreed to lease back 100 percent of the larger, 808,000-square-foot tower at 1201 Lake Robbins Drive and the nearby warehouse for 13 years.
For Howard Hughes Corp., the deal effectively increases the company’s office portfolio in The Woodlands by 50 percent. The company recently doubled down on the master-planned community it developed by announcing it was moving its corporate headquarters to The Woodlands from Dallas as part of a shareholder-driven restructuring.
Bailey Routzong & Associates, LP
Howard Hughes Corp. will move its headquarters into the smaller, 595,000-square-foot tower at 9950 Woodloch Forest Drive. The company previously had not said where its new office in The Woodlands would be located. The company’s 600 local employees are currently based at Two Hughes Landing, an eight-story midrise office building with total rentable space of 189,000 square feet. The building is located at 1790 Hughes Landing Blvd.
"These iconic towers have long been a beacon at the entry to The Woodlands Town Center, and The Howard Hughes Corporation is extremely proud to bring them into our portfolio," Jim Carman, president of Howard Hughes Corp.'s Houston region, said in a statement.
However, the deal with Occidental complicates Howard Hughes Corp.’s recently stated strategy of selling off “non-core” real estate assets in favor of shareholder buybacks and increasing its investments in master-planned communities it owns across the United States.
The company’s announcement designates the former ConocoPhillips campus, which Occidental hired CBRE (NYSE: CBRE) to list in October, as the type of non-core asset it is moving away from.
“The Howard Hughes Corporation will immediately remarket [the campus], in line with its recently announced commitment to sell non-core properties and to focus resources into the growth of its core business of MPCs,” the announcement said.
As for Occidental, the deal to sell several trophy properties to Howard Hughes is in keeping with the company’s recent effort to offload some of its larger real estate assets following the $55 billion deal to buy Anadarko, which included the assumption of Anadarko’s debt.
Occidental purchased the 1.4 million-square-foot Energy Corridor campus earlier this year but never moved in. Just after the Anadarko acquisition closed, Occidental CFO Cedric Burgher said the former ConocoPhillips campus was not big enough for the combined company and would be sold.
Last month, Occidental announced the company also had listed its Midland office at 6001 Deauville Blvd. The four-story building spans 213,260 square feet on an 11.8-acre site. It is expected to be fully vacant by April 2020.
Occidental was represented in the sale by CBRE's Brandon Clarke, executive vice president; Jared Chua, senior vice president; and Steve Hesse, vice chairman.