Lamar Advertising optimistic about trust conversion

Lamar Advertising Co. began 2014 the same way it ended 2013: Waiting on the Internal Revenue Service to decide whether the outdoor advertiser will be able to convert to a Real Estate Investment Trust.

On Thursday, the IRS issued an updated list of assets for which the agency won’t be issuing rulings. The list includes outdoor advertising displays.

However, at least two stock analysts have said putting billboards on the “no rule” list won’t affect Lamar’s trust conversion.

Wells Fargo senior analyst Marci Ryvicker described the updated list as a technicality.

“In layman’s terms, we believe that the IRS is simply saying it will not provide any FURTHER rulings on outdoor advertising displays from what had already been ruled,” Ryvicker said in a research report.

The IRS has already said that digital and analog billboards qualify as real estate, Ryvicker said.

FBR capital analyst William Bird described the IRS no rule list as “a neutral event” for Lamar.

Lamar asked the IRS for an opinion on converting to a REIT in November 2012. The process typically takes three to six months. The trusts typically invest in property or mortgages. The trusts don’t have to pay corporate income taxes on profits if 90 percent or more of profits go to shareholders.

Lamar last updated its trust progress in November. The company said it expected to complete the restructuring necessary to convert to a trust by the end of 2013, and that it expects to be in position to convert to a REIT for the 2014 tax year.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Lamar said it remains optimistic that it will be in a position to convert to a REIT for 2014.

Lamar’s stock closed at $51.64 Friday, unchanged from Thursday. It has traded in a 52-week range of $39.10-$52.33.