Corporate Office Properties Trust's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Corporate Office Properties Trust ( OFC)

Q4 2011 Earnings Call

February 9, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Stephanie Krewson - VP, IR

Rand Griffin - CEO

Roger Waesche - President

Steve Riffee - EVP & CFO

Steve Budorick - EVP & COO

Wayne Lingafelter - President, COPT Development & Construction Services

Analysts

Craig Mailman - KeyBanc Capital Markets

Michael Knott - Green Street Advisors

Joshua Attie - Citi

Dave Rogers - RBC Capital

John Guinee - Stifel

Jamie Feldman - Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Brendan Maiorana - Wells Fargo

Rich Anderson - BMO Capital Markets

Paul D. Puryear - Raymond James

Chris Lucas - Robert W. Baird

Presentation

Operator

Welcome to the Corporate Office Properties Trust fourth quarter and yearend 2011 earnings conference call. As a reminder, today’s conference is being recorded. At this time, I will turn the call over to Stephanie Krewson, the company’s Vice President of Investor Relations. Ms. Krewson, please go ahead.

Stephanie Krewson

Thank you, Laura and good morning and welcome to COPT’s conference call to discuss the company’s fourth quarter and yearend 2011 results. With me today are Rand Griffin, COPT’s CEO; Roger Waesche, our President; Steve Riffee our Executive Vice President and CFO; Steve Budorick our EVP and COO; and Wayne Lingafelter, EVP of Development and Construction.

As management discusses guidance for GAAP and non-GAAP measures you will find a reconciliation of such financial measures in the press release issued earlier this morning and under the Investor Relations section of our website. At the conclusion of management’s remarks, the call will be opened up for your questions.

Before turning the call over to management, let me remind all of you that certain statements made during this call regarding anticipated operating results and future events are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although such statements and projections are based up on what we believe to be reasonable assumptions, actual results may differ from those projected.

Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially, include, without limitation, the ability to renew or release space under favorable terms, regulatory changes, changes in the economy, the successful and timely completion of dispositions, acquisitions and development projects, changes in interest rates and other risks associated with the commercial real estate business as detailed in our filings with the SEC.

I would now like to turn the call over to Rand for his formal remarks.

Rand Griffin

Thank you, Stephanie and good morning everyone. As you are all aware last September the Board approved my retirement effective March 31st of this year. So this is my final earnings call with COPT. I’ve had a leadership role at COPT and its predecessor companies for over 18 years and will remain on the board of trusties. While the past few years have been challenging, our record over the past 13 years as a publicly traded company places us close to the top of all office REITs in terms of total shareholder return.

During that timeframe I have enjoyed my interactions with all of you. It’s been my distinct honor to serve the board and our shareholders and to build and lead such an exceptional team. Together, we’ve devised a strategy niche unique among REITs that serves the specialized needs of the US government focused on cyber security and intelligence and the defense contractors serving those functions.

These tenants and the missions they carry are critical to our nation’s safety. So although the Department of Defense is facing budgetary cuts, we’re confident that agencies and contractors focused on the cyber security and intelligence aspects of national security will emerge relatively unscathed. Furthermore although COPT’s unique tenant niche has recently been out of favor due to the Washington DC morass. We remain confident that this strategic niche will provide outstanding growth opportunities for COPT over the long term.

During the past 12 months, our management team and the board have made a lot of tough strategic decisions. We felt that it was important as a team to get these decisions behind us so that COPT could move ahead into 2012 with a clean slate and the best opportunity for success. I know that I am leaving the day to day management of COPT in the capable hands of Roger and the team that we have built.

I am confident that you will see COPT continue to perform the next years, regaining the confidence of investors as the best-in-class office REIT. Now I will turn the call over to Roger.

Roger Waesche

Thank you, Rand. 2011 was yet another year of challenges and the year of transition owing to the weak economic recovery and a continuing resolution that lasted beyond many people’s expectations. Our 2011 FFO per share as adjusted for comparability was $2.17 or 8% below the $2.36 of FFO per share we achieved in 2010. But 2011 was also a year of positioning for future success. The difficult operating environment precipitated a reevaluation of the company’s strengths and some difficult, but necessary strategic choices were made. The strategic repositioning included first, we are resetting the portfolio through the commitment to sell $562 million of assets in our strategic reallocation plan or SRP in order to decrease our exposure to non-strategic assets in markets.

Second, I have curtailed our development pipeline until such time as demand for new space that each project merits new construction. In the meantime, our development team headed by Wayne is making sure that entitlements and permits remain intact so that we can be first to market when the time is right.

And lastly, we have cut the dividend by 33% beginning with the first quarter of 2012. Cutting the dividend was a capital allocation decision that enables COPT to retain over $40 million of free cash flow each year which will improve the company’s financial flexibility. As you read in this morning’s press release, we are reiterating our 2012 FFO per share guidance with a range of $2.02 to $2.18.

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