04/02/2014 | by
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West Coast multifamily REIT Essex Property Trust, Inc. (NYSE: ESS) joined the S&P 500 Index on April 1, making it the 18th REIT to be included in the index.

Previously, Essex Property Trust was included in the S&P MidCap 400 Index.

Essex Property Trust is the first REIT to be added to the S&P 500 Index this year. Two apartment REITs, General Growth Properties, Inc. (NYSE: GGP) and Macerich (NYSE: MAC), were added last year.

The inclusion in the S&P 500 coincided with the completion of the merger between Essex Property Trust and BRE Properties, Inc. The two companies announced their intention to merge in December 2013, in a deal valued at approximately $4.3 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, each BRE common share was converted into 0.2971 newly-issued Essex Property Trust common stock, plus $7.18 in cash.

 The transaction forms a combined company with equity market capitalization of approximately $11 billion and a total market capitalization of approximately $16 billion. Full integration of the two companies is expected to occur within 18 months following the closing of the merger. “We are excited to consummate the merger and move forward to combine these two great organizations to form the leading West Coast multifamily REIT," said Michael Schall, the company’s president and CEO.

He noted that the integration effort is proceeding as planned, “which we believe will result in a stronger platform for sustainable growth, superior service for our residents and expanded career opportunities for our employees.”

Essex Property Trust has ownership interests in 233 multifamily properties with an additional 15 properties in various stages of development.

Shares of Essex Property Trust closed yesterday at a 52-week trading high of $174, up 2.3 percent from the previous day’s close.