Highwoods Properties, Inc ( HIW)

Q3 2010 Earnings Call

October 29, 2010 11:00 a.m. ET


Tabitha Zane - VP, IR

Ed Fritsch - President & CEO

Mike Harris - EVP & COO

Terry Stevens - SVP & CFO


Andrew Lee - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

David Shamus - Citigroup

Brendan Maiorana - Wells Fargo

Dave Rodgers - RBC Capital Markets

John Stewart - Green Street Advisors

Chris Caton - Morgan Stanley

Chris Lucas - Robert W. Baird



Welcome to the Highwoods Properties Third Quarter Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded Friday, October 29, 2010. I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Tabitha Zane. Please go ahead.

Tabitha Zane

Thank you and good morning everybody. On the call today are Ed Fritsch, President and Chief Executive Officer; Terry Stevens, Chief Financial Officer; and Mike Harris, Chief Operating Officer. If anyone has not received a copy of yesterday's press release or the supplemental, please visit our website at www.highwoods.com, or call 919-431-1529 and we will e-mail copies to you.

Please note, in yesterday's press release we have announced the planned dates for our financial releases and conference call for the 2011. Also, following the conclusion of today's conference call, we will post senior management's formal remarks on the Investor Relations section of our website under the presentation section.

Before we begin, I would like to remind you that this call will include forward-looking statements concerning the company's operations and financial condition, including estimates and effects of asset disposition and acquisitions; the cost and timing of development projects; the terms and timings of anticipated financings, joint ventures, rollover rents, occupancy, revenue trends, and so forth.

Such statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Actual results could materially differ from those currently anticipated due to a number of factors, including those identified at the bottom of yesterday's release and those identified in the company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009, and subsequent reports filed with the SEC.

The company assumes no obligation to update or supplement forward looking statements that become untrue because of subsequent events. During the call we will also discuss non-GAAP financial measures such as FFO and NOI.

Definitions of FFO and NOI and an explanation of management's view of the usefulness and risks of FFO and NOI can be found toward the bottom of yesterday's release and are also available on the investor relations section of the web.

Thank you. And I'll now turn the call over to Ed Fritsch.

Ed Fritsch

Thanks Tabitha. Good morning and thank you everyone for joining us today. We had a solid quarter on a number of fronts and 2010 and is proving to be a good year for our company. At the outset of the year we forecasted FFO to be 231 to 249 per share. Through the year we've tightened guidance to the range of 244 to 246 with the midpoint increasing from 240 at the start of the year to 245 and this includes the dilative impact of the non core sales we closed earlier this year.

Our team has performed well in a number of sectors, particularly with respect to leasing volume, cost control and portfolio improvement. Our operating fundamentals, while still clearly challenging have been somewhat better than we originally anticipated.

Leasing volume was again strong with 1.4 million square feet leased in the quarter and for the first time in three years we leased over a million square feet of second gen office space in a single quarter. Total office leasing for the first nine months of 2010 was respectable at 2.8 million square feet, compared to 1.8 million square feet for the first nine months of 2009, a 56% increase.

Over the same comparative period we've seen our average lease term increase lease term increase by 34%. In some cases we're clearly investing higher NTI's but the spin is in sync with the level of credit and term. Office occupancy across our portfolio continues to outperform our markets by a substantial margin.

Overall, a solid operating performance in the face of a challenging economic environment which unfortunately is likely to persist well into 2011. We don't see fundamentals worsening but we remain uncertain as to when we'll see meaningful broad based improvement.

Turning to investment activity, during the third quarter we announced two deals totaling $110 million that should generate 9% plus average cash returns. This activity included the $53 million July acquisition of Crescent Center, a 336,000 square foot class A office building in Memphis. Subsequent to closing we've invested 1 million of the 2.3 million we earmarked for building improvements as we advertise the grounds and buildings.

In August, we won a $57 million builder suite headquarters to be constructed on the Country club plaza in Kansas City. This is a terrific opportunity for us to develop a class A 192,000 square foot building in a core infill location that will serve as the new headquarters for Polsinelli Shughart, a large and highly respected national law firm with more than 500 attorneys in 14 cities. This project is subjecting to resuming. When completed we will own or have an interest in 1.6 million square feet of office space in the Plaza submarket.

We're also adding a second office project to our redevelopment pipeline, Highwood Center 2 in Atlanta. Earlier this month we signed a long term lease with the GSA for the entire building, 60,000 square feet for the U.S customs and border protection agency. This $11.5 million project will involve a substantial renovation and upgrade of the property is expected to generate an 8.5% stabilized cash return over the term.

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