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Camden Property Trust (NYSE:CPT)

March 04, 2013 4:15 pm ET

Executives

Richard J. Campo - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Executive Committee

Unknown Analyst

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Citi's -- the 18th Annual Global Property CEO Conference. As a reminder, this session is for investing clients only. So if you’re media, please disconnect. We're very happy to have with us here today, Ric Campo, the CEO of Camden Property Trust. Ric, if you could give some opening remarks and then we'll go into Q&A.

Richard J. Campo

Sure, great, thank you. I heard at lunch that this was the 18th year of this conference and I remember being here for 18 years. Camden went public, actually 20 years ago. We're celebrating our 20th anniversary of our IPO at the New York Stock Exchange this summer.

Just to recap though, Camden had a 12.5% compounded annual return over the last 20 years if you bought our IPO, which was 200 basis points better than NAREIT, 400 basis points better than the S&P and the Russell 2000 plus or minus. 50% of the return was from dividend income, 50% percent of the return was from price. Today, we operate 70,000 units. 25% of those of the net operating income comes from the West Coast, which includes Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California; 25% from Texas; 20% from Florida, 15% from the Carolinas and Atlanta; and 15% from Washington, D.C area.

2012 was a great year for us. We've led the sector, the multifamily sector, with 9.2% net operating income growth for 2012 over 2011. We have the second highest guidance for 2013, net operating income of 6.5%. We have a $600 million development pipeline under construction today and we should be adding $200 million to $400 million to that pipeline over the next year or 2. On an annual basis, 2013 looks like it's going to be a pretty good year for the Apartment business as well.

So with that, I'll open it up and we'll have a conversation.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unknown Analyst

Great. With the Archstone transaction happening recently and obviously, with our friends of ethics over here, potentially taking a position in BRE or another apartment company, there's been a lot of talk around M&A. And one company that never really seems to come up, at least in self-research that I read, is Camden. I look at your balance sheet, you have a fantastic balance sheet. Now it's one of the best in the space. Your Sunbelt market concentration would seem to sort of open you up to a lot of opportunities that some of your peers probably wouldn't take part in. So I'm curious whether you see a consolidation opportunity over the next couple of years or if there's better opportunities elsewhere?

Richard J. Campo

Well, consolidation, I think, is a function of -- first of all, it's socially driven, not just money-driven. So you have to have a willing partner on the other side. Camden has been a party to a number of M&A transactions over the years. We grew our portfolio that way, with 3 major mergers. So we're not opposed to a merger. I thought the question was going to be why isn't Camden [indiscernible], no one wants to buy Camden, maybe? But we love where we are. We love the idea that there are a lot of our competitors who are very coastal-focused and not on your markets competing for development sites or properties as well. So it gives us a really great opportunity to do well on our markets. I think some M&A will happen. I think there's some private companies that look interesting. But again, it is becomes a real social issue. We're always focused on M&A as trying to -- in our portfolio footprint, but on an accretive basis. Size, I don't think, matters as much as the quality of why you're doing the M&A. If just grow to grow for size-wise, it doesn't do any good. To me, it's all about how do you drive your earnings and increase your NAV, and increase the quality of your portfolio and your operating platform.

Unknown Analyst

How many portfolios, not obviously being marketed but that there are out there today, do you see that will be complementary to what Camden already owns?

Richard J. Campo

Well, I think there's a lot of portfolios out there like that. I think the challenge today is that, with interest rates where they are, as low as they are, with the availability of capital, one of the questions is why would you want to sell when you can refinance your portfolio and put it in bed for a number of years in incredibly low interest rate. So there is a lot of real estate that moves around over the next few years and I think as the market continues to improve, some of the folks that didn't sell in the last cycle, they're sort of trying to get their equity back at this point or probably going to be sellers.

Unknown Analyst

So even with apartment pricing being so robust, you just don't see that many sort of willing sellers quite yet?

Richard J. Campo

That's a big issue for sure. Why sell when you can refinance and increase your cash flow by taking out low -- higher cost debt with low cost debt today?

Unknown Analyst

Looking back at 2012, as you mentioned, it was a phenomenal year for Camden. This year is expected to be great. I'd say, for all the apartment companies, the only negative really has been their stock prices haven't really caught up with their growth. I mean, do you see as where your stock price trades today? Is that an impediment to your investment activity, is it something that's going to slow you down or is it not a concern?

Richard J. Campo

Well, the stock price goes up and down obviously, and everyone in this room are mostly are -- understand it better than I do. Our job is to create a long-term growing cash flow business and you guys can decide whether the stock is fairly priced or not. I don't think it's going to slow us down per se. And we are -- I think there's a very interesting opportunity, unique opportunity to trade assets today. We sold $300 million of assets in the last year so, and bought $300 million of assets so there's going to be a fair amount of trading going on. And this -- the spread between -- and I'm talking on an AFFO basis or a cash, real cash, real cash basis, it's the lowest I've seen it in my, business career. On the $300 million that we sold last year, we had a 30 basis-point negative spread on an AFFO basis, selling 22-year-old assets versus buying seven-year-old assets. And the big gap was the different in CapEx. The CapEx on an older portfolio was about $1,027 if I recall and the CapEx on a newer portfolio was about $600. And the GAAP between those come on a percentage basis, was 1.8% of property value versus 0.4%. So with that said, we were able to improve the age of our portfolio at a minor dilution, that 30 basis-point dilution is worth about a penny a share on an AFFO basis. So we will continue to do that and we'll continue -- we're going to buy and sell somewhere around $800 million in total, both ways in terms of getting around $400 million net. We may do more of that if we can. And then when you get down to it, as long as I can sell my older assets in an FFO yield that's very -- our AFFO -- yield's very attractive and I will use those dollars to fund development if that's what they need to do. So as long as the market stays as tight as it is for sales, so it's not going to slow us down at all.

Unknown Analyst

Why do you think the spread's so narrow? I mean, is it just a function of there's a lot of leverage buyers out there, and they're just trying to reach for yields? I mean, are they underestimating the CapEx needs? Why do you think right now is the slimmest spread you've seen.

Richard J. Campo

Yes and yes. There's a lot of capital out there, low interest rates and people underestimate CapEx. I've never seen an underwritten transaction has a CapEx more than $350 a door. And we know in this portfolio that I sold, the actual CapEx, 5-year CapEx was $1,027 and I guarantee you that the folks who had bought it did not end up underwriting that CapEx at that level. They put a 350 number in, probably or taking the balance and putting in the denominator when they calculate their yields. I think the other situation is when you have this low interest cost the way we do, with this really low interest rate, even at that level, with CapEx at that level, you're still getting positive leverage to the tune of 200 or 300 basis points on an equity yield basis. Folks are getting 7% to 10% cash-on-cash return on their equity.

Unknown Analyst

And I think in your guidance it's about $300 million of acquisitions and dispositions. Do you think we could see you do more than that? I mean, I guess Camden's, what, about a $6 billion company now? So like maybe take it up and call it 10% of your portfolio, just so you'd take advantage of this opportunity?

Richard J. Campo

We could -- we could definitely go above that. We have a $200 million to $400 million sort of range or $300 million as a middle. I'd like to see it at the high-end of that range, or even above that range with those kind of spreads that we can get.

Unknown Analyst

Any questions? 2013, will be, I guess the third, maybe fourth year you seem pretty exceptionally strong. I guess the question is, is now that things are starting to moderate a little bit, obviously for you all, there really is just a little bit, but how much longer do you think this sort of bull cycle can last?

Richard J. Campo

I think the cycle can last quite a while. It just depends on the economy. I mean, if we have a -- if our sort of tepid recovery becomes a real recovery and we have job growth that accelerates over the next 2 or 3 years, then the multifamily recovery can last well beyond 2014, '15. We have all the demographics working in our favor with baby boom echo and we still have 2 million people that are bundled up in homes or roommate scenarios that need to come unbundled. And with that said, supply doesn't seem to be a big issue. So you have a -- I think it's all about economy. If we have decent job growth -- and I would love to see like 1.2 million houses [indiscernible] built, which would add probably another 1 million jobs on top of the economy -- the job growth that we are having today. Our move out rate, which is about 13% to buy homes, will go back to its historical rate of about 18%, yet, we'll have so much more job growth and so many of these people getting out of their roommate situations that apartment rents will go up and we probably have a better '14 and '15 than we will have in '13 if that happens.

Unknown Analyst

Based on your markets, I mean, can you put some context around on the single-family side, like how much housing is being developed versus what was being done call it 2006, 2007? And if that were to reach back up to those levels, how many jobs would be produced? It's interesting because it seems like you actually would want to see more housing being produced, which is somewhat different than I would have expected.

Richard J. Campo

I absolutely want to see more housing produced. Right now, we're under-supplying the single-family housing market and part of it has to do with the confidence of people, the difficulty there is in the underwriting requirements for getting loans. When you look at markets like -- let's take Texas as an example, Houston. Houston, I think, has a 15-year low in supply of new houses right now. People are having bidding wars over houses in Houston. They still are building about 1/2 the number of houses they did from the peak. And part of that was a lot of the folks, the smaller builders, couldn't get financing. Now that's ramping up. We actually are probably going to have a shortage of lots in a lot of these markets. So with that said, the -- when you think about long-term housing demand, if we had a normal economy, you have housing demand probably of 1.2 million or 1.3 million and we're building, what, 800,000 houses, including apartments and annually now. So we've been under-building the market for the last 2 or 3 years. And once you get back to a more normalized demand and normalized mortgage market, that should add a tremendous amount of jobs. If you think about the job losses, you lost 8.5 million jobs. 3 million of those jobs were construction-related jobs or jobs related to the housing industry, either building products, carpets, things like that. So if you got back to a normalized job market and you had the regular jobs that are being created today, you're talking about probably job market that adds at least another 1 million jobs.

Unknown Analyst

You talked about the lack of, I guess, available products of housing out there and how it's leading to sort of bidding wars. And that's something that we've been hearing, not just in your markets, but in a lot of other markets as well. Do you think once that inventory starts opening up, that there's a risk you might see more of your tenants move out to purchase homes? The reason I ask obviously, if it's so difficult for them to find homes and have to engage in bidding wars, that could be a pretty big deterrent to do it. So if it gets easier, actually, you would save, more to engage in that.

Richard J. Campo

We would love to see our move out to homeownership to break out from 13% to 18%. Because what that means then is the economy is back, the confidence is back, that third leg of the stool, which generally is housing leading out of a recession has not been there. So we've had this tepid recovery because of that. So I'm a big believer in -- that we have to have a balanced economy, to have a balanced economy, that would improve, not only the single-family home market but everything that relates to it, from construction to products that have to go into those homes. And a lot of the people that build those homes, make those products, live in apartments and we would welcome them to come in to replace those folks that went out and buy homes.

Unknown Analyst

Listening to the housing panel today, I mean, did you hear anything that you kind of disagreed with the speakers about? Or something that you didn't think was point of emphasis that brought up enough? I'm just curious because obviously, you always have some great views on what's going on from a more macro context.

Richard J. Campo

The only thing I disagreed with to start with was the economist saying that we had to worry about the home-to-rent index being at 50-year lows and that this is a great time to buy house because I -- I agree with that part of it. I didn't agree that the multifamily REITs had to worry about it. So with that said, I thought they did a good job. I think that the panel is balanced. And the question of whether a single-family, whether long-term, is that the single-family home rental business is going to be an institutional quality business the way multifamily is, is questionable. And we looked at that a lot. I think it's a great trade and I think all the people that are in that business, well, not all of them, but a lot of them will make money, some will not make money like everyone always does. But I don't know that it's a long-term Institutional business.

Unknown Analyst

I guess 2 questions on that. I guess, first, why do you think it's a long-term Institutional business? And then second, what sort of process did you go through to evaluate it? Did you just have meetings with some of these guys or fund? I mean, like how did you decide that it wasn't for Camden?

Richard J. Campo

We -- first of all, the reason I don't think it's a long-term institutional business is because it's not like they just invented rental houses. Rental houses have always been -- there've been more rental housing, houses than there have been institutional single multifamily houses. They've just been operated by mom-and-pop. And mom-and-pop tend to have low, low overhead, much lower overhead than any institutional owner can have. They fix things themselves, they rent them themselves, they don't pay a commission to anybody, they paint them themselves. I know many people that are friends of mine that are ex-teachers and firemen, they own 5, 10, 15, 20 houses. So there's millions of houses, 18 million, 20 million houses that are out there out there are rented. And this is now new. That the recession, what it did is it blew lot of people up. And it dropped prices dramatically so it got -- and so institutional capital looking at as a trade. And its good trade, I think. But as far as the long-term institutional business, the issue, I think David Nethercott [ph] hit the nail on the head when he talked about how hard it is to run from a CapEx perspective, roofs and landscaping and all the different things from an expense perspective, and how you get the economy to scale 1 house at a time is really hard. The way we looked at it, we looked at it twice, we looked at it in 2008 and '09. And it was interesting, one of our big shareholders actually approached us, that had a big interest in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and said -- and saw the market collapsing the way we did and we happen to be in all of the collapsing markets, as you all recall. And so we had a platform in Las Vegas and Phoenix and elsewhere. And we looked at it really hard and the challenge. We came up with this, we couldn't get the yields early on to make sense and then we just couldn't underwrite the ongoing operating expenses as a percentage of the properties to make the numbers work. And so I just could never get that to work. And when we looked at it again, I hired one of the top people from Freddie Mac for about 6 months and we talked to every single person in this business. And we just could never make the numbers work on a long-term basis. So we couldn't figure out -- so maybe you can aggregate 20,000, 30,000, 50,000 units, but how do you renew those new units over a long period of time? Can you get new ones, could you build them? In the multifamily business, we can develop our own properties on an ongoing basis. I'm not sure how you -- I know there's a trade today because of the financial crisis. But how does that translate when they're building the 1.5 million houses or your 1.3 million houses a year? I'm just not sure.

Unknown Analyst

So do you kind of seem like maybe a lucrative trade but not a long-term business that you would ever consider doing?

Richard J. Campo

Absolutely. And if we're wrong and if somebody figures out how to do 100,000 single-family houses as efficient as they do apartments, then you probably have an apartment REIT that looks like that. But I just think it's a hard thing to figure out at this point.

Unknown Analyst

One of the comments you made on the call was that companies like Lennar have always been building multi-family and they have been doing it for a long time, so you're not so concerned about them. They've never -- I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, have they ever sort of announced that they're going to do a $1 billion pipeline? Does it concern you that there are other capital sources looking to get -- jump in the multifamily just given the attractive economics around development?

Richard J. Campo

No, not really. I think it's like anything else, people try to chase yield. But when you look at the supply side of the equation, it's primarily been dominated by merchant builders. I mean, even the public companies only control about 15% or 20% of the market and the rest of it is [indiscernible]. When you look at the capital comes in the multifamily, it's not just wide-eyed crazy capital. It's the same capital that's sitting at this table here. And they angst over the same issues. Oh my God, supply is getting too big, everyone is going to move out to buy a house. Where are we in the cycle, the apartment stocks aren't working. Do we need to put more capital in there? I think the capital is pretty disciplined. So once if we get to a point where we do overbuild on pocket of a market and we on the conference call say, "By the way, the market's overfilled and we're only getting this yield" then you'll start seeing capital pull back. So even if when you look at these markets that have some supply in them, and I've looked at these markets and been in these markets for 20 years, they overshoot a little bit and then the capital shuts down. So the capital I think is very -- I don't think this new capital coming in is the kind of capital that's flooding the market at any cost. The other thing I think that is driving the market today or is worrying the market big time is construction costs. I mean, in the last 4, 5, 6 months, construction costs has spiked dramatically in multifamily to the tune of -- we actually went down probably in type 1 construction cost, down 30% from peak to trough. And now, it's probably back up 20%. So we're rarely concerned about cost. So I think there's going to be cost pressure plus I don't think the capital is as wide-eyed as some people think.

Unknown Analyst

And I guess the recent increase is that labor related?

Richard J. Campo

It's both. Lumber is probably up 50% in the last 6 months. And as the single-family market does improve, they're going to compete for labor and for products. And so I don't think cost is going to get up from here. And it's spiking in certain markets. The other challenges in the markets like Texas, for example. The jobs market is really good in Houston because of energy. And the South Texas Eagle Ford Shale for example, is pulling a lot of labor out of the Houston market down there and pushing labor prices up. So I think one of the things that's going to be really interesting is if we do get back to a more stable housing market, we're building 1.2 million houses. There's just -- the labor force doesn't exist for that today. So part of the challenge is going to be managing that labor cost and those commodity price cost increases as people compete for those products going forward.

Unknown Analyst

Ric, just sort of going back to your friends owning a number of homes and their historical willingness or ability to push the rent. How do you look at that versus the institutions now coming in? They can push rent a bit more against the single-family homes they run. Do you see greater pricing power as the institutional ownership comes into single-family rentals?

Richard J. Campo

I think that could happen. And I think that will be a good thing...

Unknown Analyst

I agree. Where I'm going on it is, when we look at Bernanke's cocktail, he's got 6.5% unemployment projected, 2.5% CPI. So all he has to do is project it. And we've got, in core CPI, our rent income 40% tied to real estate but 2/3 of that is owners' equivalent rent, which is on the BLS surveys of these owners that rent a single family home. So they've had a hall pass because there's been anemic rent growth in that side of the cocktail. So I'm trying to flash out from you because you're far more knowledgeable than all of us. Do you see that lifting? And then could that be really the dragon underneath the CPI lift?

Richard J. Campo

It could be because I do think that there's a lot of efficiency to be and institutional knowledge to be input into the single-family market. And clearly, the operators like we saw today at lunch, are really smart, technology savvy, they're pushed -- they're going to push rents, as opposed to being happy with the resident that pays. And so I do think that's going to put pressure on the single-family market and what that ought to do is help the mom-and-pop decide that they ought to raise the rents too because typically that's what happens. The smart people come in, push really hard, figure out -- understand how to be efficient. And then the laggards follow because they go, "Oh, they're leasing the same house that I have for how much?" And so the word gets out and then everybody starts raising rents so that could be an issue.

Unknown Analyst

If I could, Ric, a different subject altogether. But you said you're approaching your 20th year. And as you look back at that now, we've always had in the apartments. When times are good, nobody thinks. But when times aren't so good, people start thinking about Class A versus Class B or high barrier entry markets versus lower barrier to entry markets. You've had experience now with a run of these. What do you think about the argument between high barrier and low barrier markets.

Richard J. Campo

I think if you're in high barrier market, you'll argue that, and if you're in a low barrier market, you'll argue that. You argue your book. So if I had to say "Gee, I could invest in a company like Camden and make a 12.5% compounded annual return over 20 years and we've been in a barrier and non-barrier markets. I would say that's pretty good. I think the issue becomes the demand -- it gets to the cycles right? So during that timeframe, if you bought our stock at the peak and sold it at the bottom, you lost money, right? So it's all about holding through cycles and managing the assets through cycles in both barrier and non-barrier markets. At some point, I remember you probably -- if you think about a barrier market you probably didn't want to be in San Jose in 2001 when rents went down 35%. On the other hand, you don't want to be in Houston in the '80s -- in the mid '80s when oil went from $40 a barrel to $9 a barrel. You probably don't want to be in Boston when they had -- when Boston had its issues. So that's why we've always been focused on a geographic portfolio that had -- that was very much leveraged to population growth and job growth. And some markets, whether the barrier or non-barrier, they'll get overbuilt and then they correct themselves. Generally speaking, they can overbuild because they build. Not because they can, because they need to. And then what happens is they draw a background...

Unknown Analyst

But in -- And in each case you bring up where there was a significant decline of sorts, it was usually employment-driven, right?

Richard J. Campo

Absolutely. Totally employment-driven.

Unknown Analyst

Yes, that seems to be the bottom line.

Richard J. Campo

Right.

Unknown Analyst

Maybe along those lines, can you address the D.C. market? Obviously, we've got some supply coming in and now maybe with the budget cuts and the sequester, maybe a little less job growth than we might have thought. What's your thoughts about these D.C. market overall?

Richard J. Campo

D.C. was a very good market coming in to the recession. It didn't have -- it didn't go down big and so was first one out. So it had its growth -- its worth, it's growth before most other markets did. And then it moderated. Last year, we had 6% same-store NOI growth in D.C. budgeting 3% to 4%. I think D.C., when you look at it -- when I look at a market, I don't think about it, 12-month, 24-month time frame, I think about it in a longer-term cycle. And think about why am I in that market? And we're in D.C. because it has a highly trained workforce. It is a vibrant long-term economy. Now short term, is it going to have sort of headwinds and uncertainty? Yes, absolutely. I think that creates opportunity. We've, for example, picked up another development transaction in Washington D.C. that was going to be built by a competitor at a lower land price. So with that said, I like D.C. long term. I think short-term, it's going to be challenged. I don't think it's going to go negative NOI, but it's definitely going to go slow.

Unknown Analyst

What's the rental rate assumption in that 3% to 4% ROI?

Richard J. Campo

It's about the same. It's about -- and then expense growth -- it's probably in the lower end of that and expense growth is going to be somewhere in the 3.5% to 4%.

Unknown Analyst

And is it the view that it's a couple year sort of underperformer, 2013, 2014...

Richard J. Campo

On a relative basis. When our overall portfolio is growing at 6.5% and D.C. is growing at 3%, it's a relative underperformer but it's still growing, so I'm okay with that.

Unknown Analyst

No. I appreciate that but it's a '14 event as well in your view basically?

Richard J. Campo

I think actually, it depends on...

Unknown Analyst

And do you want to give us full detailed guidance at all of your markets for '14?

Richard J. Campo

Yes, exactly, I'll give you analysis of that. You know, I think it depends. It's hard to say. I don't know how the sequester is going to come out or what the -- how that all is going to play. But '14, '15, could be okay years for that. Or it could be slow for a couple of years.

Unknown Analyst

You mentioned the opportunity that some weakness in D.C. was creating

[Technical Difficulty]

Is there a limit to how much NOI you'd want in any given market just since your it's your biggest market, 20%, you would top out, not wanting to above that?

Richard J. Campo

There's a limit, absolutely. We want to be geographically diverse. So we don't want to have all our eggs in 1 basket. We do have an opportunity through to trade out assets in D.C. so old by new, so old developed. So -- and I think that's a very good opportunity over the next 3 to 5 years to continue to rehab and recycle our assets.

Unknown Analyst

Before we ran out of time, I mean, can you just talk about some of the recent trends you've been seeing in the portfolio? I know it wasn't too long ago that you had your call, but how things been trending early in the -- I guess [indiscernible] what it might be like. So how have things been relative to the expectations and, say, versus this time last year?

Richard J. Campo

We are right on our budget. Some markets are little ahead, some markets are right even. We feel really good about where our occupancy levels are and it looks like it's starting out to be a very normal leasing season in the spring. So we feel really good about where we are and we haven't seen any nervousness or anything in the market at this point.

Unknown Analyst

Any questions? So we have the 3 rapid-fire questions.

Richard J. Campo

What were those, I don't remember?

Unknown Attendee

What do You think same-store NOI is going to be for your property sectors to the apartment sector in 2014?

Richard J. Campo

2014. My sector or the apartment sector?

Unknown Attendee

Your sector. Well, we'll call your sector the apartment sector.

Richard J. Campo

There you go. Let's see. 6% for Camden and 5.5% for the sector.

Unknown Attendee

Very specific, I like it. Second question is, if you had invested in another sector besides your own with your own personal money, what would you invest in?

Richard J. Campo

Hotels.

Unknown Analyst

And last question is, do you expect to see more or less publicly traded apartment stocks by the -- at this time next year?

Richard J. Campo

More or less? How about an even?

Unknown Attendee

We're not providing that option. Kind of a biased question I guess.

Richard J. Campo

.

I would say more.

Unknown Attendee

More. Good. Thank you.

Richard J. Campo

Thank you.

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