W.P. Carey & Co. LLC (NYSE:WPC)
Wall Street Analyst Forum 20th Annual Analyst Conference
June 8, 2009 9:50 am ET
Jay Basal [ph] – Wall Street Analyst Forum
Gordon DuGan – President and CEO
Good morning everyone. We are going to keep thing rolling along this morning. My name is Jay Basal [ph], I will be the host for the rest of the day. I work for The Wall Street Analyst Forum.
At this time I ask anyone who has a cell phone or any mobile device to switch it in the off or silent position to not interrupt the presentation. This is also in accordance with the University Clubs cell phone policy.
After the presentation, you may join W.P. Carey in the adjacent room here for a breakout session and our presenter today is W. P. Carey and they are an investment management company that provides long-term sale-leaseback to build-to-suit financing for companies worldwide and manages a global investment portfolio approaching $10 billion.
They are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. W. P. Carey and its CPA series of income-generating, non-traded Real Estate Investment Trust help companies and private equity firms release capital tied up in real estate assets.
Now in our 36th year, the W. P. Carey Group’s real estate holdings are highly diversified, with more than 300 tenants standing 28 industries in 14 countries. So, I would like to introduce Gordon DuGan, who is the President and CEO.
Thank you, Basal. Good morning everyone. I am here to talk about our business and what it is we do at W.P. Carey, but also to talk about some of the ways in which we are different than a lot of other investment firms and certainly different in most companies in the commercial real estate business.
So, thank you for joining me either live here or on the Internet. As you see on page 2, W. P. Carey has been in business for a long-time. We have a 30 year investor track record with an average annual return of just over 11.5% and our business is the same business that we have been executing over this 30 year period.
We go to corporations that own real estate, buy that real estate lease it back to them thus creating a sale lease back transaction that allows our investors to get a steady income stream secured by owning the real estate underlying, which is the security for the underlying lease.
This has been a very successful investment approach, one that has worked through a variety of cycles about a 11.5% average annual return, has been done over again a thirty-year period through a large variety of economic cycles. That is important today, obviously because of the economic cycle that we are in and I would talk a little bit more about that.
You also see that we’ve been able to grow assets under management very nicely over this period with about $9.5 billion of assets under management today. One thing that makes us very different than most investment firms and certainly almost any commercial property investment firms that I know of, in 2005, 2006, 2007, we stopped taking new investor money for two of those three years.
We did take some investor money in 2006, but we didn't take any investor money in 2005, we didn't take any investor money in 2007, we told investors if there was more capital than opportunity that prices have gotten to high, that risk was getting priced out of a lot of the investments we were seeing and there were a lot of good investments to be made there was some, but not a lot and so we shutdown our fundraising for two of those three years.
Obviously, looking back on it today it seems like a good plan. People that didn't shutdown their fundraising continue to take investor money and invest. For most of those people, in the commercial real estate related field, it is going to be a disaster and it is proving to be a disaster for people that took in money and invested too aggressively.
And we know there are very many firms that could say they have the investment discipline to say we're not going to take your money today, there'll be a time when we want your money, but it's not today and that we did at the top of the – it was clearly the peak of the cycle then, we didn't know that it was the peak, we didn't know the thing could last for another five or ten years, we are certainly not questioned, but what we did now was there was too much capital chasing opportunity and when there is too much capital chasing opportunity generally, opportunity is hard to find, not impossible, but it is harder to find.
So, we think we are very prudent in shutting down our fundraising. A few ways in which we are different, the reason these are important is, we think this is a very timely story for today, how we invest, how we make money, and how our investments hold up in a downturn, makes us we think a relatively attractive place for investor funds today and that is a very important point today because today is the opposite of ’05, ’06, ‘07 there is more opportunity than capital, not surprisingly and we think it is a great time to capitalizing grow our business.
In terms of return drivers, one of the most important points about our business is that it is not driven by a commercial real estate fundamentals. Not driven by vacancy rates, average – expected rents in the marketplace, things like that. When we buy a property we put a 20 year lease in place.
So our returns are generated much more by the credit of the company, their ability to continue to pay whether we own a fundamentally important asset of that company. And I will give you an example in a minute, we bought the New York Times corporate headquarters here in New York over in 8th Avenue, you maybe familiar with that building and I will talk a little bit about that, but what we found – the reason we have the opportunity by the New York Times corporate headquarters building is New York Times is looking to raise capital and so our investment opportunities come from closing the cycle where companies need to raise capital and we are relatively advantaged in a time like that.
So for us income, so with the New York Times we have a 15 year lease with the New York Times on their corporate headquarters. What that means is that the majority of the return will make on the investment, we will be based upon the New York Times paying our rent.
Our returns are not generated unlike most commercial real estate investors by capital gains. In other words, many, many, many commercial real estate investments are small and compliance and then with the premise that somebody will pay more for what you’ve owned then what you have paid.
Our business isn't based on that premise, our business is based upon earning asserts that companies will continue to pay rent for. So, 90% of the returns that we generated for our investors have come from income rather than from capital gains. We think that is very important because we think the capital gains gained for commercial real estate is over for the foreseeable future.
So, the investment strategies that are going to work are ones based upon the generation of income, generation of cash flow. In terms of our business, another reason we think it is a relatively attractive place for investors today, is the sale lease factor has always been meant to be more defensive in traditional commercial real estate.
We have longer average lease terms or average lease term on the investments we made last year was roughly 18 years and that long lease term allows you to write out the cycle. So the whole point of a cyclical business at commercial real estate, which you don't want a lot of your leases coming to you today in a market like this, where all the power rests with the tenant.
And so what we do is, we put in place a long-term lease term that is meant to ride through the cycles, as well as possible. We give up some upside obviously, but we give up upside in order to protect the down side like having these long lease terms. We buy critical operating facilities, facilities of companies have to keep paying our rent, if they want to stay in business and we don't take any development of lease up risk.
And if you look at the performance of our fund through the early 1990s, you will see that they performed relatively very well, this is the average dividend yield some funds have increasing dividends through this period. One or two funds, I think actually had a slight dividend decrease through this period. So, it is not that the dividend and the fund can go down, it is just that overall the performance of our funds was very good in the early 1990s, in fact that thus that any real estate commercial real estate related sponsors that we know of.
The other interesting thing about the way we invest, when we put a long-term lease in place, we typically tie the escalations to the consumer price index, roughly 72% of our leases across our distinct funds are tied to CPI. The reason that is important is today investors are more and more nervous about inflation and what our governments, monitory and physical policy is going to mean for inflation, and in addition to locking in a tenant for a long-term lease, we typically tie that lease rental to an inflation protection.
So, one way we think about it, it is a little bit like tips and that you have an inflation protected part of your income, obviously as long as the tenant continues to pay their rent, but by using CPI escalations and long-term leases, the long-term leases locked in a minimum return and the CPI escalation affords our investor some protection against inflation and we find that while inflation isn't the worry of today meaning June 2009, a lot of investors are worried about inflation perceptively and investing in our funds allows investors to have some inflation protection.
Commercial real estate in general has been used as an investment to hedge against inflation and ours is, what I would describe it is little bit more direct way given that we tie leases to the inflation rate.
I mention that we stopped our fundraising in ‘05, ‘07 that period for most of that time we were out of that market. We said publicly that it was a challenging time, there was more money than deals. We could find some good deals, but not a lot and we're the only sponsor that we know of that actually shutdown fundraising for that period, rather than change our investment criteria or find – try to find investments that we thought would work, but we are outside our area of expertise.
So, one of the keys to our 30 year track record is we stick to our knitting and continue to underwrite as rigorously in a top of a cycle market as we do in the bottom of the market, that does lead us to a time like that where we said we wouldn't take any more money.
In terms of underwriting we do all our own underwriting, we do fundamental credit analysis, on the tenant, we underwrite the real estate, the net lease investment are business upon these corporate properties and leasing them back to companies on a long-term basis is a blend between credit and real estate.
It is part credit, part real estate, we do all of that internally and we use one – we use a very interesting process where we have an independent investment committee, but once we’ve have underwritten a transaction reviews each investment for the quality of the investment., the risk return in the investment, and these are investment committee members, you know they are not, it is not meant to be read in fine detail, but rather what you see is that they are primarily people that have run very large investment organizations, typically insurance company, investment organizations, or bank investment organizations.
We also had Larry Klein, because we are a global sale-leaseback investor, we have Larry Klein, who is a the Noble Price Winning Economist on our investment community who gives us the macroeconomics to our investment policy and a number of other people that have, again had decades and decades of experience and their job is to say no, I don’t think this a good idea.
You have underwritten it, but the risk return isn’t great, we don't think this is a transaction, we should proceed with. That has been one of the keys to our track record, as you see on this page, page 11 that we have had a fun life, average fun life of 13 years spending 1979 to 2006, these are all of our investment funds that have gone full cycle, you see an average annual return of 11.5 roughly, an IRR of 10.4, which is obviously a time weighted measure, interestingly the statistics that most of our investors are most appreciative for is the percentage of regional investment, which is measured of how much we can compound somebody’s money.
Obviously, if I have taken a $100 and return $120 six months later that is a fantastic IRR, like – roughly 40% IRR because we took the money and returned in so quickly, the problem is I just turned $100 into a $120 and a lot of our investors, with – the benefit of being an investor in our fund has been in addition to very nice steady returns, their money compounds that we take $100 and turn it into $256 over a period of time.
That is no easy trick, to compound people's money year-after-year for a long period of time. So, it is something that we have very proud of. This is also an interesting measure it shows that over this full cycle, our full cycle investments. The state of deviation has been very low.
So we have had the same basic investment approach for 30 years, we have applied it across various cycles and what we have seen is a very steady generation of investor returns obviously what we're doing today is an attempt to continue that, there is no guarantee that we will, but it is at least the same investment philosophy with the same investment process that has led to a very steady return over a period of time.
And these are the things that are resonating with investors and our funds today, as we go out to raise money. The publicly traded company W.P. Carey is the fund manager. So, I'm talking a lot about our track records as an investment manager as Polk Carey likes to say, “Any investment manager is only as good as the job they do for their investors.”
So, our ability to gather assets and grow is in large measure determined by our ability to convince investors that we have of coherent and attractive track record and a way of investing money today that should be of interest to them.
In terms of recent performance of our funds, it just continues to be strong in a difficult market, we have said publicly, we are cautious about corporate defaults that is the determinant of returns for us, the higher the level of corporate defaults generally speaking the lower the level of returns, but as you see we have quite a bit of cushion in this current environment, these were last years coverage numbers for each of our funds and you see that we had coverage of FFO, which is an earnings measure for real estate investment trust, as well as adjusted cash flow coverage of our distributions in these funds.
So, while we are cautious about corporate defaults, we have a nice level of cushion to continue to produce these results for our investors. And in terms of the peer set of similar sponsors of non-traded funds, you see that off the top four funds in terms of dividend coverage, this is the reverse dividends that payout to earnings ratio, but again this is listed in terms of – the lower the percentage the better in the slide – slide 14.
What you see obviously is that we have three of the top four performing funds across this spectrum. So, our funds again are performing absolutely decently well, but also relatively well, again in a very difficult environment. And lastly, we used non-recourse debt, but we don't use recourse debt. So all of our funds, each investment we make, we leverage that investment specifically, we don't use company level debt.
The reason that is important is that a lot of people have gotten themselves into trouble by over leveraging the business and especially over leveraging their business with what we consider recourse debt or debt that has been guaranteed by the parent company. We don’t like to use recourse debt, none of our funds have anyway recourse debt, all of the leverage is accepted by access, it is a much safer way for equity, for the equity investor to not have your debt across collateralized or guaranteed by the parent company.
The other issue that is laying on the commercial real estate industry is debt maturities, you see that we have debt maturities of $174 million coming due in the next two years. We have more cash on the balance sheets of our funds than the debt maturities that are coming due.
We are making progress in refinancing this debt and you see that it had spread out pretty broadly, but there are debt maturities coming due. We have plenty of liquidity, but we also will be able to refinance the debt as it comes due – not maybe not all of it, but we have plenty of cash and liquidity to deal with that as this occurs.
In terms of our current fund, we are out raising CPA 17, we’ve raised I think the last publicly disclosed number is $440 million – $450 million, we've raised in this fund, this fund is raising money primarily from individual investors, but also institutional investors to go out and buy assets like the New York Times and I will talk about in a second.
We think it is a good time for us to raise money because it is a difficult time for companies to raise capital. We can help them raise capital by buying their real estate and leasing it back to them. There is a huge amount of real estate on corporate balance sheet. Worldwide corporations are the single largest owner of commercial real estate.
They are several times larger than all of the rates put together then all the property funds put together, corporations owned significantly more commercial real estate than any other single category. The reason that is important as it gives us a very large marketplace to pay in to find investment opportunity.
And what we're finding with our investor base, reason we have been able to raise $450 million in a very difficult time is they are still continued investor interest in yield related investments, if they have some confidence in the investment manager and the approach of the business.
We have also seen that the funds we have raised in recessionary times while there is a very low standard deviation on the returns of our funds. The funds raised in the recessionary environment did perform better. There is a slight vintage by us, we think to the funds and they performed slightly better than the overall average.
Let me talk about the New York Times deal and then I will open it up for Q&A. I mentioned that the bought the New York Times Corporate Headquarters, it is a building on 8th Avenue between 40th and 41st if you can buy it. It is actually what we purchase was a condominium interest, the building is half owned by a big New York City investor and developer by the name of Forest City – of Forest City Enterprises, we owned the bottom half of the building, they own the top half of the building.
The New York Times had owned the bottom half of the building, but sold it to us in a sale-leaseback. The New York Times invested more than $500 million into the building. It is, their corporate headquarters houses all of the operations for the New York Times newspaper and for the website. We paid them just under $225 million for their interest in building.
So we are able to buy it at a substantial discount to their investment in the building. We put in place a 15 year bond type lease with the New York Times, with an initial return on the net price of 10.75, we have six perennial [ph] escalation in this transaction. So at $300 a foot, which is what we paid for roughly, again we paid less than half of their investment in the property, put in place lease with a very high initial return.
The flipside of this is what we did do, is we gave them a purchase option and so we paid roughly $230 million they can buy it back from us after year ‘10 four $250 million. So, we have capped our upside a little bit, but in exchange for capping our upside we have a very high current return then we have a very low basis in the property.
And I think it goes to the type of investment we would rather make, we are not trying to hit grand slam home runs, you know the way we have built up an 11.5% track record over 30 years is looking for investments that we think can provide predictable income and cash flow for our investors.
We do take risk, we take credit risk, we take a variety of risk and obviously we are taking credit risk with the New York Times. Our view of the newspaper industry is, it is a terrible industry and it is getting worse. All the news you are going to hear about it is going to get worse and worse and worse, but we think the New York Times will survive.
There is three national newspapers in the United States, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times, these are the only three national newspapers and we think the fate of an arguably the Washington Post if anybody, someone can certainly take a better argument in The LA times, someone might argue, but really there are three national newspapers. The fate of a national newspaper we think is going to be different in the state of the local newspaper and all of the newspaper business is under pressure, we did a very exhaustive underwriting of the New York Times.
We do think there are going to be a survivor, but in case they do get into financial difficulty we own, what we think is the most important, we owned an asset that houses what we think are the crown jewels of the New York Times.
The news from the web hosting – the web business all of their employees are in our properties. So, even if they got into financial trouble, they need to pay our rent to keep in business. If they want to shut down the business forever then they don't have to pay our rent any anymore they can stop the bankruptcy and discipline [ph] the lease, but if they want to continue to be in business, they need to pay the rent on our building to stay in business.
So, we think that we did the right underwriting, we love this building, we have emitted a very attractive price and we are able to get a very high current return and all of this is to say that we think there are terrific opportunities available today to invest in our business relative to ’05, ’06, ’07 because there is less capital chasing deals then there was then, obviously capital is more scarce than opportunity.
That is a terrific time to a long term investor. Warren Buffett, you may have seen his up head letter to The New York times in the fall, I believe in October/November he said that, his exact quote was, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” Actually, I don't like the word greedy all that much. If I would just quote, and I think that it encapsulates how we think as an investor and that in ’05, ‘06, ‘07 it was clearly a time to be fearful and not enough people were fearful about what was going on.
We shutdown our fundraising for two of those three years, so we were clearly fearful when we should have been and today's it is the opposite. It is much safer as the long-term investor to invest in an environment when there is less capital than investment opportunity, all things being equal.
It is obviously not risk-free, but the debt to stock more in your favor today than in an environment where there is tremendous overhang of capital looking at opportunity your returns tend to get beaten down. Today, we think it is a terrific opportunity, we’ve raced I think I mentioned $450 million in our current fund CPA 17. CPA 17, we are seeking to rise up to 2 billion, I think it will be more realistically between 1 billion and 1.5 billion that we end-up raising in this fund and that will give us a lot of dry powder to fund these investment opportunities today.
What that means for W. P. Carey as the investment manager, is we have the ability to grow our investment management business. Number one, at the right time of the cycle to growth and number two at a time when very few people are able to grow their business, we should be able to growth, we are hopeful that we can ground given that we are continuing to raise capital, we continuing to find investment opportunities, like this New York Times investment and so we think it is a timely story today, whereas in ’05, ’06, ’07 we would have told you were growing much less rapidly than other people because we are cautious about the environment.
Today this is the right time to grow our business, we are so cautious about corporate effects and their impacts on our existing portfolios, but this is the time as Warren Buffett said to be aggressive, I like aggressive rather than greedy, the time to aggressive when others are fearful and grow the business.
So that is our plan that is where we are today. In terms of what this means for financial performance, I have a couple of slides with our general financial performance. I believe we also have annual reports here for all of you to look at. I think it really telling that the cover page is the (inaudible) we thought that was a great scene for what we saw going on in ‘05, ‘06, ‘07 that taught us in the hair, obviously is a story that we are all familiar with and we are thinking some ways encapsulates who we are, slow and steady.
If I can go to page 24, which you will see is our – this is on our – W.P. Carey. On 23, this is our investment management business and its impact on our earnings of the public company. 24 is our real estate ownership business, we own a number of assets directly on balance sheet, and this has typically provided a very stable cash flow for the company to see the FFO – the FFO in this portfolio, which has grown nicely over a period of time, but as a steady cash flow generator.
The combination of the two, which you see on page 25 is that EBITDA has grown over time, FFO has grown over time, net income is a GAAP measure of earnings, but we like it is a supplemental earnings of EBITDA and FFO. In addition, a very important metrics process, what we call adjusted cash flow from operating activities, which is meant to be a – basically the core cash earnings of the business.
And what you are saying is a nice steady growth in our adjusted cash flow, a nice steady growth in our dividends for distributions from the company and a nice growth in terms of coverage.
So, we have increased cash flow more than we have increased our distributions, which have increased the coverage of our distributions over time. And that is an unusual place to be today in this world where we are actually increasing the distributions. We are paying to investors and increasing the coverage, earnings coverage of those distributions over time.
Most financial services related companies, most real estate investment related companies are obviously doing the opposite, slashing dividends and the like. Those that aren't are in a similar position to us, which means they must have strong cash flow generation and increasing cash flow generation to be able to continue to increase your dividend in an environment like this.
Lastly in terms of our balance sheet, we’ve kept our balance sheet strong through the current cycle, we have low leverage ratios by any measure and back at ’05, ’06, ‘07 we were asked whether you have – if you see at the end of ‘07 our balance sheet was in a very, very strong position we were asked, why are you guys, what are you saving your dry powder for?
And we said we don't know, but we know having dry powder is going to be important at some point and again in 2007, we didn't know if it was two years, three years, 10 years, 20 years, we are certainly not smart enough to call the tops and bottoms of cycles, but what we did know was generally we are somewhere near the top and that we wanted to keep our powder dry at the top of the cycle for a time like this, were having a strong balance sheet is a very important differentiator like the company and as you see, we have very low leverage ratios and very strong interest coverage ratio.
With that that is my presentation, at this point I would also – we have investing for the long run, which is one of our models, we actually got that model from the corporate challenge here in New York, where you are running on Central Park, we had a team going up and somebody came up with the slogan investing for the long run and we liked it so much that it stuck.
And we used it because it goes very much to our philosophy as long-term investors trying to generate cash flow for the investors and our funds and as the investment manager to those funds are public shareholders benefit from this very long steady track record and the fact that we have growth prospects today and most companies are trying to lick their wounds from some excesses of the past.
We are now without our challenges, but our challenges seems to be a relatively significant less and our opportunities are terrific. So with that, I will turn it over to our Q&A. Yes, ma'am.
Two very good questions, one a lot very little bit more about our global investment business and what has happened in the dynamics of that business with respect to cap rate etcetera, where are you invested, how you invested and what are you seeing? And the second is what happens when companies default on their lease?
The first question, we started investing in 1998 in Europe, we saw an opportunity where corporations were a much larger owner of commercial real estate in Europe then they are in the United States. And U.S. roughly, 40% of all commercial real estates owned by corporations.
In Europe the percentage is almost 70% of all commercial real estate is owned on corporate balance sheet and so what we knew from our experience is over time that tends to go down and European corporations would be in a position where they find it better use of their capital to sell off real estate and start to shrink the amount of real estate that they own on balance sheet and what has happened in the last 11 years has proven to be exactly that.
In fact the sale lease back market in Europe is four times the size of what it is in the United States in terms of volume. There were very large sale lease backs where companies were selling – there were very large real estate holdings in Europe and what we’ve seen in terms of the dynamic from a cap rate stand point is, there has been a world wide convergence of cap rate.
Cap rate in continental Europe are very similar to what they are in the United States. We are $9.5 billion of assets, roughly 3 billion of that is in Europe, almost none of it in U.K., a tiny bit in U.K. Most of it is in continental – all of the rest of it is in continental Europe, primarily Germany, Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, Poland, but in Poland we have a German company parent guarantor, and France.
Those were our major investment markets in Europe. We buy passed the hot markets of the U.K. and Spain at the top of the cycle and there maybe opportunity in those countries going forward, but what we have seen as a convergence of cap rates, as a convergence of interest rates and a convergence of cap rates.
So cap rates in Europe are fairly similar to today, the dynamics are fairly similar, there is an argument to be made, they are lagging a little bit behind the United States in terms of their cycle and we will have to see, we do like the diversification that is having euro based investments and not having all of our investments in dollar based assets and our investors debt resonates with our investors that some portion of their property investments are in Euros and not in dollars.
So, that is another positive reason why we invest internationally. The second part of the question, how do you do with tenant effect, the way it works, generally speaking in most counties in the investment, it works in the United States with a majority of our investments are, in bankruptcy it is the tenant effects and typically tenant default is the bankruptcy.
The lease is an interesting instrument in that, if the tenant needs to operate in that property they have to continue to pay rent. So, while the bond holders and the banks are paid the moment of tenant banks, or bankruptcy because we are not a bond holder or a bank, we own the real property that they occupy, they have to continue to pay rent and bankruptcy and if they need the property to immerge from bankruptcies to take Chrysler for example.
If we owned a critical asset of Chrysler, they would have had to pay us in bankruptcy and then the key/clients would have needed that plant. When they emerge from bankruptcy then they have to keep paying rent on the terms of the lease. So, we can do very well in terms of our protection in bankruptcy.
If we don't need the property however then we are an unsecure creditor, they would check the lease, we have a lease claim then we have to take a property like this and go out and find a new tenant. We don't like that to happen. It is really a good scenario for us. It is usually a bad scenario if we get the property back, but it doesn’t where we have lost our investment means now we own a piece of property then we have to go out and try to replace the income, which generally has some costs associated to it. So, it is not a great event for us, but it is not a disastrous event. There is time for one more question. Yes sir.
Yes. We have seen a pick up in our fund redemptions, not surprisingly given a difficult economic period and one of our – but all of our fund redemption programs have stayed open. I think generally that between two and 3% of the capital has – we measured on a 12 month basis how much of the investors have redeemed over the last 12 months and for 14 and 16, it is between two and 3%, for 15 it is almost 5%, and at 5% the redemption plans shuts down, so that might – thereby might be – we are approaching that and see if there is a opportunity to disclose that publicly.
So we are having some redemptions and the increased number of redemptions, it is manageable in two of the funds were asset close to the shutdown and one of the funds, but the investors, the good news is the investors dividends continue to come in very well and they are very gratified for the continuing high level of dividend income that they are receiving from the funds.
I think I have gone too long, but I thank everybody for coming and listening to me either in person or on the Internet and we have annual reports for everybody. I am going next door for the breakout session, if you have additional questions. And again I thank you for your time.
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