NRF beat AFFO estimates by $.42/share! They took full advantage of the great market in the 4th quarter, unlike RAS. Schaeffer needs to step up to the plate and be more aggressive. Problem is he's still "shell shocked" by the recession and is scared to step it up.
NRF surprised me. Kudos to them. A lot is going right there. One of the big things that is going right has been their ability to raise money. NRF was about to raise over three times more investment capital than RAS in 2012. I would note here that this difference in capital raise is NOT about aggressiveness. RAS was doing everything it could to raise capital last year. It was more about market reaction. When NRF did a capital raise early in the year the market stalled the upward movement of its price for a while, but it didn't punish the stock. When RAS did a smaller capital raise at about the same time, the market pummelled it by taking the price down about a third (from above $6 to about about $4. The same difference can be found elsewhere, but that differerence is fading. Both did large secondaries at the end of 2012 and had their price rise from the offering price. Expect that both will do capital raises again before the end of 3Q, much as NCT did this week.
The difference in capital raises leads to another big difference. NRF successfully wrote a CMBS in 4Q. RAS will probably do the same in 2Q. The difference in timing will be more about the earlier access the market gave NRF to capital rather than inaggressiveness.
NRF's non-traded REIT is doing great (indeed, it accounts for well over half of NRF's capital raise in 2012). If, as you surmise, Salman was fired, it may well be because NRF's non-traded REIT was so much more successful in its early going That said, they are different NTReits with different terms, and RAS' NTREIT accounted for at least 20% of its capital raise in 2012 (e.g. it is working out, if slowly).
That said, if NRF's results seem a little too good to be true, look no further than the last addition to its AFFO adjustments: $117.4M of non-cash unrealized gains from fair-value adjustments. Bad news: without that non-cash adjustment NRF lost money by all of its metrics (an AFFO of -12M. This is the kind of sleight of hand that continues to make me wary of NRF. The market loves it, of course, but it's an accounting profit rather than a real one.
I've seen that before in other industries and companies. I dealt with one retailer that had gone through bankruptcy and their entire plan going forward was to structure everything so that they would NEVER go bankrupt again.
In some ways it can be healthy to make sure one doesn't make the same errors again, but as you point out one can miss significant upside too.
I think RAS was just a step behind many others getting their new investment cash in place. As you can see RAS has found recourse debt to be anathema............no more digging out with debt for equity swaps when business gets tough.