CBL & Associates Properties, Inc ( CBL)

Q1 2011 Earning Call Transcript

April 29, 2011, 10:00 am ET


Stephen Lebovitz - President, CEO

John Foy - Vice Chairman, CFO, Treasurer

Katie Reinsmidt - Vice President Corporate Communications, IR


Todd Thomas - KeyBanc Capital Markets

Jay Habermann - Goldman Sachs

Christy McElroy - UBS

Nathan Isbee - Stifel Nicolaus

Craig Schmidt - Bank of America

Michael Mueller - JPMorgan Chase

Rich Moore - RBC Capital Markets

Ben Yang - Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

Quentin Velleley - Citi



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the CBL & Associates Properties first quarter 2011 conference call. During the presentation, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Afterwards, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions).

As a reminder, this conference is being recorded, Friday, April 29, 2011. I would now like to turn the conference over to Stephen Lebovitz, President and Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

Stephen Lebovitz

Thank you and good morning. We appreciate your participation in the CBL & Associates Properties Inc conference call to discuss first quarter 2011 results. Joining me today is John Foy, CBL's chief financial officer, and Katie Reinsmidt, Vice President Corporate Communications and Investor Relations, who will begin by reading our Safe Harbor disclosure.

Katie Reinsmidt

This conference call contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Federal Securities Laws. Such statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties, many of which cannot be predicted with accuracy and some of which might not even be anticipated. Future events and actual results, financial and otherwise, may differ materially from the events and results discussed in the forward-looking statements.

We direct you to the company’s various filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including without limitation the company’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K as amended and management's discussion and analysis of financial conditions and results of operations included therein for a discussion of such risks and uncertainties.

During our discussion today, references made to per share amounts are based on a fully diluted converted share basis. A transcript of today’s comments, the earnings release and additional supplemental schedules will be furnished to the SEC on Form 8-K and will be available on our website.

This call will also be available for replay on the internet through a link on our website at cblproperties.com. This conference call is the property of CBL & Associates Properties Inc. Any redistribution, retransmission or rebroadcast of this call without the expressed written consent of CBL is strictly prohibited.

During this call, the company may discuss non-GAAP financial measures as defined by SEC Regulation G. A description of each non-GAAP measure and a reconciliation of each non-GAAP financial measure to the comparable GAAP financial measure will be included in the earnings release that is furnished on the From 8-K.

Stephen Lebovitz

Thank you, Katie. We are encouraged with our results for the first quarter and the continued improvement we are seeing in our key metrics across the board. Same center net operating income increased 50 basis points over the prior year. Leasing spreads have continued to recover and we're positive for the first time in nine quarters.

Portfolio occupancy increased 150 basis points from the prior year. John will discuss in more detail later but we have closed on more than $660 million in financing activity so far this year at very attractive rates.

Our year is off to a great start and we are well-positioned to continue this positive momentum going forward. The improving economy continues to benefit our retailers who experience positive sales growth with sales per square foot for the first quarter in our portfolio improving 2.9% over the prior year.

For the trailing 12 months, sales grew 2.5% to $324 per square foot. With generally positive economic indicators and improving consumer confidence, we saw strong sales in our malls in April leading up to Easter and expect the upward sales trends to continue throughout the year.

These positive sales trends contributed to the continued growth in our occupancy and better leasing metrics. For the quarter, total portfolio occupancy increased 150 basis points to 90.3% and stabilized mall occupancy improved 70 basis points to 90.4%. We are still projecting for occupancy to end the year 75 to 100 basis points over the prior year end.

During the first quarter, we completed a tremendous amount of leasing, signing approximately 1.7 million square feet of leases. This included approximately 560,000 square feet of new leases and 1.1 million square feet of renewals with the remainder signed in the new development portfolio.

The first quarter continued our trend of improvement in leasing spreads. Overall, leases in the first quarter were signed at a 30-basis point increase over the prior gross [rep] per square foot. While renewal spreads were still negative, they moved in the right direction compared with previous quarters.

We are still facing difficult renewal negotiations with a select few retailers whose sales have not recovered from pre-recession levels. We are being proactive in replacing underperforming retailers and have used short-term leasing to keep NOI flowing while we secure replacement tenants.

As the economic and retail environment improves, we are seeing retailers boosting their expansion plans and increasing demand for space, benefitting our new leasing activity. New leases are being signed at impressive increases, more than 18% for the first quarter.

As spreads turn more positive, we are pushing to lengthen the lease terms. For the quarter, 55% of leases were signed for three years or less, an improvement of 5% compared with last quarter.

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