The Brookdale Plunge

July 15, 2008

July 15, 2008
It was bad enough when Brookdale Senior Living plunged by 23% in June, but it has dropped by another 26% in the first half of July on no real news. It is not alone, however, as both Sunrise Senior Living and Five Star Quality Care have declined by 22% so far this month, and Capital Senior Living has decreased by 10%. The one company that has seemed to bottom out is Emeritus Corporation, up 10% from a new low reached last week. So, what is going on?

The answer is, no one really knows, other than the obvious concerns about occupancy and the housing market. The basic business still seems to be in okay shape, and even some declines in occupancy certainly do not warrant these huge drops in value. Perhaps with Brookdale, investors are assuming they will cut their dividend again, or eliminate it entirely, in an effort to conserve capital. Investors have questioned why the company has not taken advantage of the huge price drop with its stock repurchase program, and the only logical answer is that they need (or want) to conserve their capital in case the market continues to spiral downward. That may be smart, especially since accessing the capital markets is not easy today. While occupancy has been the buzz word for the past six months, liquidity may be the buzz word for the next six months.

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