Essex Property Trust's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Essex Property Trust (ESS)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 03, 2012 1:00 pm ET


Michael J. Schall - Chief Executive Officer, President, and Director

Erik J. Alexander - Senior Vice President and Division Manager

Michael T. Dance - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

John Lopez - Vice President and Economist of Research & Due Diligence

John D. Eudy - Executive Vice President of Development

John F. Burkart - Senior Vice President and Fund Manager of Essex Apartment Value Fund


David Toti - Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., Research Division

Swaroop Yalla - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Robert Stevenson - Macquarie Research

Jana Galan - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Eric Wolfe - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Michael Bilerman - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Alexander David Goldfarb - Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division

Richard C. Anderson - BMO Capital Markets U.S.

Karin A. Ford - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Omotayo T. Okusanya - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Michael J. Salinsky - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division



Greetings, and welcome to the Essex Property Trust, Inc. First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

Statements made on this conference call regarding expected operating results and other future events are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements are made based on current expectations, assumptions and beliefs, as well as information available to the company at this time. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated. Further information about these risks can be found in the company's filings with the SEC.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. Michael Schall, President and Chief Executive Officer for Essex Property Trust. Thank you, Mr. Schall. You may now begin.

Michael J. Schall

Thank you, and welcome, everyone, to our first quarter earnings call.

Erik Alexander and Mike Dance will follow me with brief comments on operations and finance, respectively. John Eudy, John Burkart and John Lopez are here for Q&A. I'll cover the following topics on the call: Q1 results and market commentary; second, investment markets; and third, disposition activity.

First topic, Q1 results and market commentary. Last evening, we reported FFO and core FFO of $1.63 per share for the first quarter of '12, which is ahead of our internal expectation and above consensus. We continued to see strong growth in Northern California and Seattle and a continuation of a steady recovery in Southern California, demonstrated by exceptional same-store NOI and revenue growth of 11.2% and 7.1%, respectively.

This result reinforces our expectation for a strong 2012, driven by very limited supplies of housing and job growth that exceeds national averages in Northern California and Seattle and is near the national average in Southern California. We don't see a significant departure from this basic theme until at least 2014. Erik will discuss portfolio trends in greater detail.

Our projections for rental and for-sale housing supply for 2012 are included on Page S-15 of the supplement. As expected, we see continued growth in multi-family deliveries in many of our target markets. We closely track the supply of both rental and for-sale housing and project deliveries through 2014. From now through 2014, the largest percentage addition to the existing multi-family stock occurs in San Jose, where we expect multi-family deliveries for 2012 to be 0.5% of stock or 1,100 units growing to 1.2% of stock, 2,600 units in '13, and 1.4% of stock, approximately 3,000 units, in 2014.

Seattle has the second-highest multi-family deliveries, estimated for 2012 to be 0.5% of stock, or 1,800 units, growing to 1% of stock, 3,800 units, in 2013 and 1.1% of stock, 4,400 units, in 2014. All other West Coast Metro areas are expected to average less than 1% annual rental supply growth through 2014. L.A. and Orange Counties are expected to have the least multi-family supply, averaging 0.3% and 0.6%, respectively, through 2014.

The other housing supply risk relates to for-sale housing production. We continue to believe that affordable for-sale housing is a significant threat to apartment rent growth. Our for-sale supply expectations remain muted in our coastal markets, largely due to high median home prices and restrictive lending practices, which should be beneficial to Essex. Seattle single-family deliveries are estimated to approach 0.9%, or 6,300 units, in 2014. However, both Northern and Southern California have very little for-sale supply, averaging less than 0.2% of stock in 2012, growing to 0.4% in 2014. As a result, even with the growing apartment supply, we expect very tight housing conditions in each of our targeted markets through 2014.

Subsequent to quarter end, we completed the buyout of our partner's interest in Skyline apartments located near Irvine in Orange County. I have commented previously that institutional co-investments provide an important alternative source of capital as compared to financing on Essex's balance sheet. In this case, we estimate that we issued 320,000 fewer common shares by acquiring Skyline initially with a partner and then the subsequent partner buyout as compared to the pro forma acquisition of Skyline on our balance sheet back in March of 2010. Obviously, the stock price performance was a major factor in that result.

In development, we started 5 development projects in 2011 and started the second phase of our Epic community in San Jose during the quarter, all of which are outlined on Page S-9 of the supplement. The average cap rate on these construction projects based on current market rents is approximately 6%.

Aside from these transactions, our Shadow pipeline, which is not included on S-9, consists of 3 potential developments in Northern California that could start in 2012 and have an expected cost of approximately $360 million. Thus, by the end of the year, we expect our construction pipeline to aggregate up to $870 million, of which Essex will own from 50% to 55%.

We also have 3 smaller land parcels that are held in our land inventory that could be started within the next year and an operating retail property on 12.6 acres in Santa Clara that we acquired in connection with the bankruptcy amid the great recession that we are entitling for apartments.

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