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Armada Hoffler Properties, Inc. (NYSE:AHH) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Armada Hoffler Properties, Inc. (NYSE:AHH) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 2, 2023

Armada Hoffler Properties, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.06 EPS, expectations were $0.32.

Operator: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Armada Hoffler Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions]. This call is being recorded on Thursday, November 2, 2023. I would now like to turn the conference over to Chelsea Forrest. Please go ahead.

Chelsea Forrest: Good morning, and thank you for joining Armada Hoffler's Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call and Webcast. On the call this morning, in addition to myself, is Lou Haddad, CEO; Matthew Barnes-Smith, CFO; and Shawn Tibbetts, COO. The press release announcing our third quarter earnings, along with our supplemental package were distributed this morning. A replay of the call will be available shortly after the conclusion of the call through December 2, 2023. The numbers to access the replay are provided in the earnings press release. For those who listen to the rebroadcast of this presentation, we remind you that the remarks made herein are as of today, November 2, 2023, and will not be updated subsequent to this initial earnings call.

During this call, we may make forward-looking statements, including statements related to the future performance of our portfolio, our development pipeline, the impact of acquisitions and dispositions, our mezzanine program, our construction business, our liquidity position, our portfolio performance and financing activities as well as comments on our guidance and outlook. Listeners are cautioned that any forward-looking statements are based upon management's beliefs, assumptions and expectations, taking into account information that is currently available. These beliefs, assumptions and expectations may change as a result of possible events or factors, not all of which are known and many of which are difficult to predict and generally beyond our control.

These risks and uncertainties can cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations, and we advise listeners to review the forward-looking statement disclosure in our press release that we distributed this morning and the risk factors disclosed in the documents we have filed with or furnished to the SEC. We will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, including, but not limited to, FFO and normalized FFO. Definitions of these non-GAAP measures as well as reconciliations to the most comparable GAAP measures are included in the quarterly supplemental package, which is available on our website at armadahoffler.com. I'll now turn the call over to Lou.

Louis Haddad: Thanks, Chelsea. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Today, we reported normalized FFO for the third quarter of $0.31 per share. In line with our expectations and consistent with our full year guidance. As you can see from our press release, the portfolio continues to deliver positive growth in same-store operating income and re-leasing spreads while maintaining company-wide occupancy in the high 90s. We continue to prove that best-in-market properties yield impressive results in most any economic climate. Shawn and Matt will give you the details on the quarter as well as the current state of operations and financial metrics. I'll take a few minutes to highlight just a few examples of the key advantages to having a diversified business model.

Well, there is maybe at the mercy of their particular sector and whether it's externally under pressure or out of favor. Our ability to adapt to changing market conditions across asset classes and business lines, gives us the unique ability to preserve earnings growth while making the right real estate decision for the long-term health of any given property versus accepting substandard outcomes in the name of preserving short-term earnings. As case in point, we, like all landlords who hold leases with WeWork have been asked to take substantial rent reductions in order to preserve their lease commitments. As you may know, we have 2 leases with this tenant in the total portfolio at the Interlock in West Midtown Atlanta, and One City Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Both are new trophy class mixed-use buildings and vibrant urban walkable locations. We have no interest in impairing either of these prime assets for the below-market lease and are very comfortable with prospects for backfill, should we choose to reclaim the space. We're always willing to help our tenants who, despite good faith efforts may be going through a rough patch. That's just good business. However, we will not compromise superior locations with low-yielding material leases in either office or retail assets. Due to the strength of the vast majority of our holdings as well as our Construction and Development division, we are comfortable to assert that full year 2023 guidance remains unchanged and that we expect continued earnings and dividend growth next year, irrespective of the WeWork outcome or that of a handful of other smaller tenant challenges we face within a few assets.

Shawn will give you an update on the robust leasing activity we are seeing across the portfolio in a small amount of vacancy that we possess. The second area that diversity yields significant advantages versus narrowly focused companies is that of finance. Through a decades-long successful track record in multiple business lines, we've achieved a BBB credit rating and have accrued a large and growing stable of banks that continue to extend additional credit to us. At a time when lenders are shying away from most commercial real estate, we continue to receive increasing commitments, and we are successfully mitigating future risks through derivative purchases. The end result of which is that we've been able to continue our development activities, initiate the $50 million share repurchase program, and lock in relatively low interest rates on all portfolio debt for the next 2 years.

Matt will fill you in on the details of these transactions. Yet another major benefit comes from our construction and development operations with third-party fee income at all-time highs and an elevated level of backlog, our expectation is for 2023 to be our most profitable year ever, and we expect similar results in 2024. These earnings allow us to further flexibility and dealing proactively with potential issues elsewhere without endangering profit growth. Additionally, we expect development activities at our 2 Harbor Point joint ventures to give us a significant source of capital to reduce leverage once they are completed in about a year. This will be especially important as equity prices remain suppressed for the longer term. Shawn will give you an update on that progress as well as the strong pre-leasing activity occurring at Southern Post.

For years, we have been describing the advantages of our business model, vertical integration of the development process, asset class diversification, mixed-use environments and best-in-class properties are all important factors in our platform as well as our value proposition. While we understand some investors focus on single asset class REITs, our ability to dominate submarkets with multi-use projects is its own unique advantage. This approach to real estate, 44 years in the making, has produced substantial growth over the last 10 years despite the challenges of the pandemic and the current disfavor of the commercial real estate sector, which has impacted property values consequently reducing our multiple and undervaluing our equity. While this can be viewed as respectable performance by many, it's by no means satisfactory to us.

Our goal remains to demonstrate the true worth of superior assets, both property and human, and return the equity value to its previous highs and regardless of the macro environment, while providing solid interim returns to a safe and growing dividend. Before we intend to continue adding to earnings and dividends in 2024 as we wait for the market to recognize superior outperformance. For the next -- over the next 1 to 2 years, in addition to continuing measurable growth, we intend to make strategic moves that should further separate our trajectory versus that of our peers as well as reinforce the flexibility, resiliency and foundational strength of our diversified platform. I'll now turn the call over to Shawn to review the operating metrics.

Shawn Tibbetts: Thank you, Lou. We, at Armada Hoffler remain highly focused on running our playbook by developing high-quality real estate, safely and efficiently constructing buildings, all while operating and managing the stabilized properties with intentionality and purpose. The combination of disciplined execution in accordance with our corporate values serves as the foundation of the Armada Hoffler value creation model. The supplemental package contains a recap of our operating highlights. I would like to call out a few of the noteworthy metrics that are contributing to our continued growth and sustained high occupancy across the portfolio. Quarter three, year-over-year same-store NOI was positive in all segments and was 4.4% on a GAAP basis and 5.9% on a cash basis.

A wide angled view of a large office building owned by the REIT-Mortgage company, highlighting their commercial real estate investments.

Quarter 3 year-over-year re-leasing spreads on the commercial portfolio were positive 14.5% on a GAAP basis and 4.9% on a cash basis. Leasing activity was robust during the third quarter. We executed leases on over 120,000 square feet within the stabilized commercial portfolio. It's important to note that less than 3% of our 6.2 million square feet of commercial space is currently vacant, 58% of which has active deals being contemplated. Our multifamily portfolio continues to perform in a consistent and sustainable manner as a result of the trophy quality and superior location of the assets. Our team continues to grow NOI at a mid-single-digit pace. We intend to replicate this optimal performance as our footprint expands throughout the Southeast over time.

The retail portfolio is also outperforming at 98.1% occupancy. As I mentioned earlier in the call, retail has been very active over the past few quarters with continued levels of elevated leasing activity throughout our 4 million square foot portfolio. Tomorrow, LEGO will hold a grand opening celebration for their new store at our flagship Town Center location. We are capitalizing on this high-profile momentum and are currently in discussions with other credit tenants for space within our Town Center ecosystem. Although not consistent with the broader narrative, our office portfolio continues to remain highly leased and occupied. In terms of additional leasing activity, we continue to experience strong demand for our trophy office product in the submarkets within our geographic footprint.

This flight to quality is tangible in terms of both the occupancy of our buildings and the rents that are collected ultimately adding significant value despite headwinds present in the broader market. The percentage of office leased sits at 96.1%. Led by Town Center office at 98.9% of the nearly 800,000 square feet. Our tenant watch list has remained consistent over the past few quarters. Lou touched on WeWork earlier, so I will focus on other notable inclusions. The former Bed Bath & Beyond in Durham has also remained top of mind and discussions with a short list of suitors for that space are progressing. As mentioned last quarter, in the Virginia Beach location, we have used the opportunity cost equation to narrow the programmatic options to best fit our strategy.

We are very pleased that out of the over 700 tenants in our portfolio, only 11 are on watch list status. At Harbor Point in Baltimore, we continue to make significant progress toward completion of the T. Rowe Price global headquarters, scheduled to be delivered in the third quarter of 2024. Additionally, Allied, the 312-unit luxury apartment project will be integrated into the Harbor Point ecosystem and delivered in a similar time frame. We couldn't be more excited to realize the benefit of completion of these projects. In Roswell, Georgia, we are making significant progress toward completion of the Southern Post mixed use project. 68% of the commercial space is now leased or under LOI with a roster of high-end experiential dining and retail offerings as well as high-credit corporate office tenants and well above pro forma rents.

Additionally, the 137-unit multifamily project at Southern Post, Chandler Residences, is already seeing strong demand with a prospect list of over 500 people. These high-quality units are positioned at the high end of the submarket and are expected to be put in service beginning February 2024. Our construction team is focused on delivering high-quality real estate that will significantly expand our portfolio, thereby serving the long-term strategy of our company and, therefore, our shareholders. We have a robust third-party contracted backlog that is currently over $500 million and our shadow pipeline looks robust. Portfolio of preferred equity investments is progressing nicely and we anticipate payoff of these positions according to plan. As discussed previously, our partners are best-in-class in the residential space.

And we, if given the opportunity, would love to own one of those assets at the appropriate price, especially given their proximity to our target markets in the Southeast. I will now turn the call over to Matt.

Matthew Barnes-Smith: Good morning, and thank you, Shawn. The team continues to perform extraordinarily well even against the adverse backdrop on the broader macro economy. For the third quarter of 2023, we recorded FFO of $0.31 per diluted share and normalized FFO of $0.31 per diluted share, in line with both guidance and analyst consensus. We maintained our guidance range accordingly at normalized FFO of $1.23 to $1.27 per diluted share. Our stabilized leverage metric was 6.2x this quarter, which is slightly above our target range due to the debt incurred in connection with our acquisition of the Interlock asset earlier this year. When our ancillary debt is included, leverage is 7.1x consistent with last quarter. As articulated on the previous earnings call, this metric will temporarily increase over the next few periods until the assets in our development pipeline start producing cash flow.

The leverage is anticipated to decrease back into our target range as EBITDA continues to grow. Our debt service coverage ratio and fixed charge coverage ratio were 2.5x and 2.2x, respectively, with our weighted average cost of debt maintaining its level just above 4% for the quarter. The team's continued ability to manage and execute our balance sheet strategy and these adverse market conditions will yield benefits far past this economic cycle. Our liquidity position continues to be strong at roughly $190 million, more than ample to cover the 2023 cash requirements for our remaining development pipeline and our preferred equity investments. This, combined with our well-structured debt maturity ladder means that we can adequately support the team in achieving our portfolio growth objectives.

On the call last quarter, I discussed our 2024 derivative maturities and indicated that we would monitor the environment to ensure we either convert the variable rate debt to long-term fixed-rate debt in the private placement market or layer in new hedge positions when our current set of positions mature. With interest rates expected to be higher for longer, we moved ahead and replace the derivatives that were expiring in the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year. With the intent to maintain that our debt is close to 100% fixed or hedged in the short term. Our intent is to continually mitigate the risk of rising interest rates in the most efficient manner. To that end, we also entered into 2 short-term swap locks on our portion of the construction debt associated with our joint venture partnerships in Harbor Point.

As we mentioned earlier, we may look to exit our positions in these assets at the appropriate time. As you will all recall, in June, our Board of Directors authorized a share repurchase program. In late September, we took advantage of market conditions and initiated the program purchasing back our daily allowable limit for a 7-day period. During this time, we purchased back a total of nearly 600,000 shares of common stock at a weighted gross average price in the low $10 range. Given the increased uncertainty in capital markets, we intend to continue to monitor the program against market conditions. Whilst our conservative posture is biased towards capital preservation, we appreciate our Board of Directors authorizing this tool to use our discretion.

I will now pass the call back over to Shawn.

Shawn Tibbetts: Thanks, Matt. Finally, thank you to our talented team at Armada Hoffler. It is a pleasure to work with a group of individuals who are harnessing the power of a team to continuously create value for our shareholders. On behalf of our Board of Directors and the executive leadership team, we appreciate your focus and attention to detail that ultimately results in quality real estate that is poised to produce value for decades to come. Thank you for all that you do. Operator, we are ready for the question-and-answer session.

Operator: [Operator Instructions]. Our first question comes from Rob Stevenson from Janney.

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