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Elliott urges REIT Healthcare Trust of America to explore sale

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Singer, founder, CEO, and co-chief investment officer for Elliott Management Corporation, speaks during the Skybridge Alternatives Conference in Las Vegas
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(Reuters) - Activist investor Elliott Investment Management on Monday urged Healthcare Trust of America to launch a strategic review and explore a potential sale of the real estate investment trust.

Elliott, which is one of HTA's largest investors, said the company's longstanding underperformance compared to its peers has stoked frustration and shareholders want it to aim for a sale. HTA shares were up 2.1% at $32.38 in afternoon trading.

The news comes months after HTA Chief Executive Officer Scott Peters stepped down, which Elliot termed as "abrupt and unexpected".

"HTA faces a challenging stand-alone future given a disadvantaged ability to compete for acquisition targets, the inherently risky task of having to identify and integrate a new CEO and the difficult mission of repairing and rebuilding the company's culture," Elliott said in a letter to HTA's board.

HTA, which invests in real estate primarily consisting of medical office buildings, is presently headed by interim CEO Peter N. Foss.

Investors believe that HTA should conduct the review, including solicitation of bids, before it makes a decision regarding its new CEO, Elliott said, cautioning the absence of such a review would make it difficult to attract a suitable candidate for the position.

Elliott said it was confident that "highly credible buyers" would make offers at a substantial premium to the HTA stock's current trading price.

In response to the hedge fund's letter, HTA said it had held several discussions with Elliott representatives after it was first contacted by the firm and shared the information with its full board. (https://prn.to/2YHKgtX)

"We are open minded and committed to delivering superior returns for all HTA shareholders", HTA added.

Bloomberg News first reported on Elliott pushing for a strategic review of HTA last week.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Shailesh Kuber)