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DCT Industrial Trust Inc. (NYSE:DCT)

Citi Global Property Conference Call

March 4, 2014 7:30 AM ET

Executives

Philip L. Hawkins – Chief Executive Officer

Graham G. Miao – Co-President, Co-CEO, CFO & Executive VP

Unidentified Analyst

Good morning. Welcome to the 7:30 AM on day two of Citi’s Global Property CEO Conference. This session is for investing clients only, and if media or other individuals are on the line, please disconnect now. Disclosures are available up here and on the webcast on the disclosures tab. We are pleased to have with us DCT, Phil Hawkins. Phil turn it over to you for some opening comments and then we’ll do some Q&A.

Philip L. Hawkins

Okay, can you hear me?

Unidentified Analyst

You should be up.

Philip L. Hawkins

So we’re working out that work, can you hear me. Well, I can speak louder, if you want who are live with the webcast. Hey, good morning. A number of you I think already know about DCT, but the risk of being, thank you, I need training – at the risk of being redundant with some of your knowledge, I’m going to give you a quick overview, not surprising giving our name; we are in the industrial real estate business. We own and operate, acquire and develop distribution properties, and light industrial properties across the country. Six key principles of our strategy, which I think are important to understand about a company. They are important to us, so I think this should be important to investors.

First, a very strong focus on building and continuously improving upon a market centric organization that operates, acquires, leases, and manages our assets. It’s a people business, not a brick and mortar business, and it’s something we take very seriously.

Our largest assets, our largest opportunities are existing portfolio, so we are very focused strategically and operationally on maximizing cash flow from those properties to aggressive leasing and property management. Next, we focus our people and our capital on 13 major markets, characterized by deep tenant demand and investor demand. We want to be where that bulk of money and the tenants are and want to be. We have no plans or desire to expand further either domestically or globally. We are a U.S. focused company.

Leverage, we want to leverage our expertise and our relationships to successfully pursue and execute development, redevelopment, and other value-add activities. We are a value-add oriented company, it’s not just a collection of operating assets, its how do we apply our people, our relationships and our skills to create value beyond just the real estate and the benefit of our capital.

Next, we actually manage our portfolio. We don’t just buy or develop, we also sell. We sell assets that we believe are time from a growth perspective, NOI and/or NAV perspective. It’s a dynamic business, boring assets, but dynamic business and something that we take very seriously. We scrutinize and go through our assets on a very regular basis and are active sellers at times in the marketplace right now when active selling is rewarded.

And last and certainly not least with by CFO sitting right next to me is a focus on maintaining and frankly further strengthening our balance sheet. I think it’s important to reduce balance sheet risk, so we can take real estate risk, where we think we can underwrite that much better than financial risk. This year we received investment grade ratings from both Moody's and S&P and also executed a successful debut bond offering in October, that went very well. It will not be our last bond offering and it’s something we think is very important to further strengthen and diversify our balance sheet.

In terms of results early…

Unidentified Analyst

[indiscernible]

Philip L. Hawkins

Yes, no may I take over. You will do a better job. So thank you just save me, quick overview of 2013 results, second leading seems to our cash NOI growth of 4.9%, increased portfolio occupancy a 100 bps to 99.3%, that would have been 50 basis points higher in the fourth quarter, if we are not, if we excluded fourth quarter acquisition and dispositions reflecting the fact that we have a bias to sell occupancy, i.e., so fully valued, fully stabilized asset, and buy vacancy that that activity in the fourth quarter alone reduced by about 50 bps.

Effective rents, which you all may call, gap rents, but in my view it also incorporate free rent and rent pumps. So I think an important measure, effective rents increased 6.6% our lead new leases relative to old leases expiring leases that follows a 4.4% increase in 2012. I think it reflects both a very positive operating environment that we are in, as well as I also, and I’m bias, but also I think a positive a quality portfolio in the right markets.

We acquired $360 million of assets in 2013, $900 million over the past three years. We stabilize $107 million of development with an average yield of 8.4%. And we have $230 million now in our development with a projected average stabilized yield of 7.3%. And last but not least, we sold $266 million of assets in 2013 and $540 million over the past three years. So we’re busy in many ways both leasing, by acquiring, developing and selling, it’s been a – in fact, it’s been a good time to be in industrial business and still is…

Unidentified Analyst

Great. Well, thank you for that. So we’ve been starting off these sessions, these enough surprise questions anymore, because we get – we rise them up, but what do you think is the most misunderstood thing about DCT specifically and what are you doing to address this?

Philip L. Hawkins

You know I think is always – this is always a few things management was love invested to understand or value more, the first thing I think about is the portfolio, I think many investors, all investors follow us understand that we made progress and done a lot with respect to upgrading our portfolio and managing our portfolio, but I think they don’t fully yet appreciate how what we’ve done to the quality of the markets that we’re in and the quality of the assets we own compared to maybe when they first saw the company 10 years ago.

We – over 50% of our portfolio has been and what we called motion just in the past three years, $1.6 billion of asset acquisitions, development, and sales. 50% that’s a major transformation, and as I think created a portfolio of that is very strong relative to what we want – where we want to be, we never done, but that’s one. The second one, I think on a standard it’s not just about DCT, it’s industrial, it’s skepticism about rental rate growth and supply.

When I – when we were investors who are bearish or nervous about industrial given the run off, you’ll see the focus on those two related items, supply and rental rate growth. If you’d never see rental rate growth and industrial four valve, we see it now and we never and we’ve always seen supply out of control.

To me rental rate growth given low vacancies and development there remains pretty much in check relative to where the – where demand is, I think plays to really accelerate in 2014 and 2015, and that’s not for DCT comment for an industrial sector comment, but those are the two things I would think about.

Unidentified Analyst

And if we take your first comment in terms of the portfolio, so call it $4 billion niche of assets today, $230 million under development you want to sell somewhere by guess $150 million, $200 million of assets probably by the same amount. And just as you have the ability to how much more do you think transformation if you think you talk about $1.6 billion gross acquisitions, good development, and dispositions? How should we think about that growth of that portfolio, first we had a common thing 215 markets we’ve noted that to expand in any big way, I don’t have this more or so globally…

Philip L. Hawkins

Great. We don’t – to the extent our footprint not our portfolio. We love to grow the portfolio, but we’re not going to grow the worst of our portfolio more the depth of our portfolio. It depends on the prices, [Indiscernible] use of proceeds will be, say, how much more to sell. I think if I look at price – kind of price incentive decisions, what would I like to – what would I feel like I really want to do now.

I would say, it’s like 5%. What do you think I could do this year given where current investment sales pricing is and given what we believe we can deploy capital through development and acquisitions in our markets, I see it’s 10%. Now if deployment opportunities ramp up and/or exciting or pricing changes even more all of a sudden some things in the list, and I’ll give you an example.

Right now Nashville is a market that we like, it’s not a market we intend to expand in, but giving where rents, our market rents are, our current portfolio rents are is not a market we want to sell. Well, cap rates come down over 50 bps and that equation changes. Well the real estate like the market don’t necessarily want to be there forever because we don’t necessarily want to invest our people there, but I’m not want to sell assets there today giving the growth that we see over the next three to five years, but the right cap rate, all of a sudden the math changes.

Unidentified Analyst

Hence that would fall out of the 10% category.

Philip L. Hawkins

That would be about – in my mind that would be beyond the 10%

Unidentified Analyst

Right, and so where does that if you include all of those for some markets, where does that percentage get up to in terms of…

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, at the right price…

Unidentified Analyst

Level of company…

Philip L. Hawkins

Yeah, I mean – I mean that’s out be typical of the answer, but you are talking about the prices, and I will tell you how much is for sales…

Unidentified Analyst

Right..

Philip L. Hawkins

And so that to me its about financial and value, it’s not about strategy and it’s not about function, function and location concerns as part of the that’s a 5%.

Unidentified Analyst

That’s a 5%, right…

Philip L. Hawkins

And then 5% to 10% would be characterized as…

Unidentified Analyst

What I can do to this year…

Unidentified Analyst

That more in the function…

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, more it’s not function, its what I view as stabilized assets that we think would be good to trade out of and to use those proceeds to fund higher growth, higher value creation activities that the company has in front of it.

Unidentified Analyst

How – given your strategy, how would you evaluate portfolio deals relative to single assets or smaller two or three type of deals? Given your comments, is that mean this is much a higher hurdle for portfolio transactions to agree to do?

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, it depends on where the portfolio is located and how it fits, a degree of fit, if a 90% fit, I think about the same way as an individual asset is bigger and obviously more, more work. If it’s a eclectic portfolio, is a more eclectic in the last fit it is with us for what’s excited we are and obviously in reality the bigger that portfolio, the more others who are out there chasing it who are more eager to own assets than perhaps we are and we lose those battles on 99 out of a 100 times.

Unidentified Analyst

Is there other major metros or major markets that you are not in that you want to be in and took price aside for a second, because it probably – those are markets probably tougher to get, give the rate of returns, but is there any that you are not in today that you want to be in?

Philip L. Hawkins

No. There would be – back to the portfolio, as a portfolio came along though is 80% perfect.

Unidentified Analyst

Yes.

Philip L. Hawkins

And the pricing was acceptable. What do we do – what do we want to accept some of the metropolitan areas of presence, the answer is yes.

Unidentified Analyst

Yes.

Philip L. Hawkins

Do we believe we should be in more areas? No, unless the company was significantly bigger, because to me you want to go to an area unless you’ve got people and people to lose your ability to afford in an organization elsewhere. So I think if you’ve got a – we’re not – it’s important that we would be good in a marketplace, not just be in a good marketplace.

Unidentified Analyst

Is that 20% you think that would be the limit in terms of your asset portfolio deal and you have to characterize a certain percentage as non-core and not long-term, 20% would be sort of the limit?

Philip L. Hawkins

I don’t want to – I don’t want to put lags in the sander and concrete, because I don’t think I need to, it’s hypothetical. I use as an example that came out off the top of my head, not as a well sought out prescription for the future. Clearly, we have defined I think and well articulated, hopefully well articulated a focused strategy that’s important to the company. It’s important to the company.

Unidentified Analyst

Right.

Philip L. Hawkins

And it’s not just important to the company today, so we think it’s important over time. You’ve got to be practical about life, things aren’t going to be perfect. We’re not looking to be perfect, so – but the closer it is to our current view of the world, the more excited we would be about a portfolio and obviously the reserve is also true. But I wouldn’t draw a line and say yes, 22.3%, we go from really interested to go on.

Unidentified Analyst

And then from a size perspective, I assume just given how large the industrial market is. You don’t feel that there – by limiting yourself to 13 metros, you are in anyway limiting your growth size with the potential…

Philip L. Hawkins

We have a major metropolitan locations, so I don’t believe we’re limiting our growth at all. And more importantly rather than size, I want to make sure, we maximize our ability to grow profitability, cash flow and rents, and I think the markets we have picked. And the balance we are shooting for is much more important than size, size will be great, but not as important to me as profitability and growth.

Unidentified Analyst

All right. If I put the acquisition to the sale and we said at some point you to sell everything. How do you think DCT appeals to either a global player or to a U.S. player, all right, so you said you don’t want to go global, and you’re very happy in your 13 metros, how do you think your company appeals to a potential buyer, a global buyer or a domestic buyer?

Philip L. Hawkins

I don’t know. I will tell you, our team is really proud of what we’ve done. We think we built a great company that’s going to become better. That value hopefully is appreciated by many REIT investors. I think the same thing that REIT investors look for or the same thing that institutional investors look for. We’re all in the same general business. And if you build a great company, it has appeal to a broad audience. But I don’t – I have no idea beyond that and our focus is what we’re doing in the REIT world.

Unidentified Analyst

Just talk about the development pipeline, how high can that go this year in terms of total starts and you set out a target, how much more can come into play, how much more can you pullout of a land bank, how aggressively you’re adding for the land bank, just talk a little bit about the supply?

Philip L. Hawkins

Okay, so we have – in our guidance, we have $100 million to $200 million of starts. The most important factor that will drive that to the higher end is lease up of our current portfolio – the current development pipeline. What we have said is, we do not want to compete with ourselves in anyone market. And as a result, until we lease one efficacy – in underway, we are not ready to replace it with a new asset, so leasing goes well or better than pro forma, better than expectations will be at the high end.

The only think I would contribute to that would be build-to-suites or earlier than expected success in some markets in which we’re working on land, but have not yet gone through the – complete the entitlement process. There are few examples of that, that I don’t needed to be specific about, but so that we’re continuing and looking for land, replacing the land bank as we put existing land into service or finding land deals in each of our markets.

And we continue to look for ways to grow that pipeline up to a certain point. I think the $200 million level of starts, it prices the high-end in general we did $211 million in 2013 of starts, that was – and so similar level up to that would be great. We’re not certainly not don’t say we don’t want to be more than $200 million or we love to do less than $200 million, it should we thought was a range that reflected kind of a realistic view of what is likely to happen.

Unidentified Analyst

How much of the $200 million had existing just existing projects where you’re just adding a building or a second phase, third phase?

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, it’s virtually all of it could be achieved and who knows I actually get to $200 million, but virtually all of that can be achieved with existing land...

Unidentified Analyst

Existing land, because I’m trying to think about the risk profile of the development in terms of an existing successful park and in terms of completely new piece of land, where you don’t have any other buildings around and…

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, we’ve got – the land we have is in-fill much of it is one and two phase projects as opposed to parks. Our intend is not to land bank five or six years of land what a park would involve often, and usually it takes longer than you might underwrite when you first buy the site. As we said from my experience maybe others have had better experience, you’ve got – so to me, I say it’s one and two-phase projects.

So in Seattle, we have multiple phases behind it. Houston is not a part, we have land that is ready to go actually it’s underway now one case with leasing of some other projects that are geared by. We just bought a three building project of – potential project in right here in Brown County. We’ve got a – but I’m sorry really this – we have a one and two phase infield locations as opposed to parks, which tend to be a little further out and longer in duration and therefore I think increase in risk.

Unidentified Analyst

And so how much, if you do $200 million starts after the current land bank that you have, how much is left if you don’t add to it in terms of the potential…

Philip L. Hawkins

Not much. We’ve got other land notes under contract; they will be coming into 2015…

Unidentified Analyst

2015.

Philip L. Hawkins

Yes.

Unidentified Analyst

Right.

Philip L. Hawkins

I go back to – let me just summarize the development strategy, a couple of key components, as I said one, which is don’t intend to compete with itself, no matter how bullish we are in a particular market. Second is a version to land banking. There are benefits certain moments in a cycle we wish we have our land bank. But there are many, many, many more [indiscernible] we glad yet don’t, so one or two phases…

Unidentified Analyst

Yes.

Philip L. Hawkins

That you could build at today’s economics or close today’s economics, a returns that are better than what you would do, if you bought a stabilized asset, 100 to 200 basis points better. That is a measured approach to development. I guess some points in time or some perspectives might be not bullish enough, other perspectives might be what crazy you’re developing. Now where the industrial business we’ve got great people, it developed to create value is part of our business, is part of our core, but let’s not go crazy and go too long on land, which doesn’t generate any revenue.

Unidentified Analyst

And you are not worried about the supply overall, ramp being significantly in industrial space, but what’s going on with occupancies and rents moving up?

Philip L. Hawkins

Am I worried, do I watch supply, for sure. I mean, no, I’m not, it’s not that I’m not worried about the supply, I’m encouraged where we are. You’re seeing supply happen in markets, where vacancies are very low. Two markets that we’ll talk about Inland Empire and Houston. Inland Empire, vacancy for 500,000 [indiscernible] above is less than 1%.

So even if you don’t lease any space, you’re talking about vacancies that are manageable. And right now supply is equal to net absorption of those – in that marketplace. So you’re seeing supply built to demand and you’re seeing that happen in markets where we need supply built to demand, or the demand is not going to get satisfied.

Those costs – so I think that as rationale. I think it’s a governmental fact that most if not all development is being funded by equity, whether it would be balance sheet equity of REIT, so other companies that have financial wherewithal or by really good quality developers who are getting access to institutional capital in the form of forward commits or joint ventures.

That’s a very different environment than 2007, 2008, where a lot of the supply is being built by merchant builders with bank debt, non-recourse fairly high LTV and the result is their alignment of interest is very different, throws many projects up as possible, if you successively win, if you lose no hard, no fall of the banks, it’s the difference. That to me is a much different environment and that environment is not showing signs of reoccurring.

I’m not going to watch for it, but my sense bank regulations are such that actually very difficult for banks to make those kind of a loans, because it considered nonperforming from the day they’re putting the book, even if they’re current and not in the fall.

Unidentified Analyst

I have a question for Matt Moore, you’ve been successful match funding growth with equity and asset sales, can you just kind of discuss your long-term leverage goals and how we get there?

Graham G. Miao

Yeah. Well, I think the most important thing is how we get there is really a continuation of what we’re doing and I think we’re pretty close to that. Currently, what defines leverage constrains varies depending on what market conditions are today. I think as a value creator debt-to-EBITDA is the sort of most relevant measure. I think 6.5 times is a good bull’s eye. I think the flight path, the glide path if you will that we’re on, will get us there simply through the lease up of the development $230 million that Phil alluded to. I think that in the continued operating environment, we’re in sort of gets us right to that point.

And I think from that point forward, you will see us we’ve been on a program or what I’ve already referred to as delevering through growth, where we’ve been funding our deployment with a combination of dispositions in equity and the equity serves the purpose of giving the balance sheet where we need it. I think what happens and it’s in pretty short order is now we will fund growth. We will start adding incremental debt over time on a leverage neutral basis. But I think what I think of is our target metrics and what we’ve communicated to our bond investors and other rating agencies is very much within our sort of near-term grasp on the path that we’re on today.

Unidentified Analyst

Yes, sorry. Just going back to the merchant builder financing or the market that was back in 2007…

Philip L. Hawkins

Actually I can’t – here you go.

Unidentified Analyst

How the financing market for just new development now, is it getting back to being easier for those merchant builders to come in and build the new buildings? Or how that financing market is working?

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, I think non-recourse loans on non-performing assets in today’s environment by and large are unavailable to almost anybody. It’s really one of those paradoxes. It’s only available to the people who don’t really need it. If you do not have a tenant, I don’t care how good your side is, you’re not going to get a non-recourse loan from a bank. If you are a really, really, really good client of the bank, you might get a 50% loan-to-value loan. But that’s not really what the people, again, what they’re having, developers lack today is equities. So a 50% loan-to-value deal doesn’t bring, doesn’t launch a development, otherwise it wouldn’t get done, because they were the equity to do it.

Unidentified Analyst

Is there any questions from the audience?

Question-and-Answer Session

Philip L. Hawkins

We’ve been quiet…

Unidentified Analyst

Usually held off, because it’s usually on Wednesday, it always happening on Wednesday…

Unidentified Analyst

Sure. And to give Michael’s team [indiscernible] here. So Michael these industrial calls every quarter [indiscernible] highlighted to feel that it wasn’t one market where it was supply was exceeding demand in the January call for the fourth quarter, when you look forward and you think about where a creep could occur which markets would you keep more of an eye on at the same time it might have the demand that justifies that acceleration in supply?

Philip L. Hawkins

I think the markets that you worry about, our markets where institutional equity would love to and while you give credits to institutional investors, and go through a diligent process to that opportunities and they’re certainly worried about long-term performance. Everyone thinks their project is fine as the next guy is the problem and or they are not aware of other projects that are happening at the same time, they all get approved in the same day and then next you know you are over.

So I would think Houston and Southern California, two markets, and I love the most today, but we’re not the only one in fact if you look at the REITs and the number, we have been in Huston for quite some time, we have been in Southern California for quite some time, but you see not every REIT by land in Huston, some of them are in the last few months. And that’s indicative of – I think of how institutional investors in general particularly pension funds and industrially focused funds are thinking about life.

You want to go where the sale is easiest and you can raise capital for Huston and Southern California, those were two – I think those two markets are the most robust demand, so I am not, but those two that I would be thinking about. I mean clearly the other markets that are institutionally of interest, DC, Pennsylvania, Florida, Dallas is become pretty active, but incredible demand. So there is another markets, so I would be always watching quarterly or monthly or when we look at development deals, we’re talking to our teams but what’s not just on the books, but what’s being planned and talked about and rumored and that’s what we think about very important, very, very thoroughly.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, and just as a follow up given the comments on Huston and Inland Empire, we just say that that purchase of the land by the players is now in more disciplined hands than it was in the previous cycle?

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, land prices is – land prices in Southern California is still not back to where they were in 2008, that’s not true in Huston, Huston have been really fall where other markets did for a variety of reasons. I think for the most part investors are looking to get – what I am most encouraged about in our business right now is despite the fact that plenty of capital has flowed into risk oriented investment, development, renovations, leasing risk, that that the risk premiums are still there which to me implies discipline.

That those risk premiums will its coming a little bit or not miniscule and each deal is different, but in general you are still seeing development, speck development generate the potential for a 100 to 200 basis points premium over a stabilized market, market cap rates. That implies to me discipline.

Unidentified Analyst

Right.

Philip L. Hawkins

Land price have gone up, but the rents have gone up, and those spreads have – have held in pretty good.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay and then just one follow up on your leverage comments, the discipline that you are seeing now, the difficulty of getting those, the non-recourse loans, do you think this is directly related to Basel III being place this cycle as opposed to last cycle?

Philip L. Hawkins

Absolutely.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay.

Philip L. Hawkins

That’s to me that’s what’s encouraging about it. If we’re relying on the memories of the bankers and credit officers to keep us in this, I wouldn’t feel nearly as good as about it is, absolutely structural.

Unidentified Analyst

And just to circle back on the Houston and Inland Empire comments, how do you view source in those markets and how do you think it’s going to impact the rental growth in those – in the longer term for the new supply coming online?

Philip L. Hawkins

Well, I think given the demand of those markets and the relative constrains to supply long-term, we are big fans obviously reverting with the pocket book for – on that – with that – in that market for rental rate growth, which is really what drives NOI. I think the supply that’s coming online with 1% vacancy, or less than 1% vacancy, and supply that’s equaling a one year demand and the land costs and land owners who are very proud of what they have and cognizant of what they have and therefore land prices are going up, construction costs are now starting to move in those markets, you are competing with homebuilders.

And other construction projects and so contractors are now making money, their margins are up, somewhat materials are up and down, but margins are up, lands up in general kind of 4% to 6% inflation and construction in Southern California and other strong markets.

I think that moves the ceiling up for existing building owners in a fairly healthy clip. We’re not looking for 10% or 20% annual rent growth of industrial; it’s not going to happen. In fact if it does happen, we’re going to see supply go through the roof.

What we’re seeing is good demand across the country, good renovate growth that in some of the secondary markets is now beginning to show up, it’s been lagging that the cost of markets for a while, but we’re now seeing good renovate growth, phase rent growth, which is really encouraging. And now in the markets we’re seeing development, the cost of the development is going up as well. So I think renovate growth in the Inland Empire is a pretty good picture.

Unidentified Analyst

Obviously I’ve got three rapid fire, what’s the same-store NOI growth for the industrial sector in 2015?

Philip L. Hawkins

3% to 4%.

Unidentified Analyst

As you could snap your fingers today and sell a portion of your assets with no stings attached in order to create your ideal portfolio, what percentage would you sell?

Philip L. Hawkins

To that answer that question…

Unidentified Analyst

You know, we sort of answered this.

Philip L. Hawkins

Jeez…

Unidentified Analyst

I don’t know if this is going to be…

Philip L. Hawkins

Well you gave me the answer of the test, I want to say 10%.

Unidentified Analyst

Yes, our cap rates are higher or lower for your assets one year from today.

Philip L. Hawkins

Flat in the primary markets, down modestly in the secondary, so overall down modestly.

Unidentified Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you very much.

Philip L. Hawkins

Thank you everybody.

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