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Macerich Co. (NYSE:MAC)

Citi Global Property CEO Conference

March 13, 2012 4:55 PM ET

Executives

Art Coppola – Chairman and CEO

Ed Coppola – President

Tom O'Hern – Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Well, we’re here at the 4:55 session at Citi Groups Global Property CEO Conference. We have saved, as I said the best for last. And we are very please to have with us Macerich, Art; and Ed Coppola; and Tom O'Hern.

Art, I’ll turn it over to you for some introductory remarks and then we’ll have some Q&A.

Art Coppola

Thank you. Can you hear me? Hello. Okay. All right. Thank you. All right Thank you for having us. We appreciate it. We are in a very good position today with our business and our company. I think that judging from the schedule many of you have already heard the presentation of several other mall companies. I would say that amongst Class A mall operators, our fundamentals are relatively the same.

They are very strong. The one difference would be that we have a large concentration in Arizona and Arizona in particular has been very strong, the last year and half. We have five regional grouping for our company. Southern California is our large concentration, Northern California, the Pacific Northwest to another one, Arizona is a third one, Midwest is another one and then the East Coast. And Arizona as a region has led our sales comps for five of the last six quarters.

And the Phoenix marketplace is beginning to experience signs of job growth, where our several major corporation’s that are looking to locate corporate headquarters or expansions into the Phoenix marketplace.

And a big part of the driver of that is the things that have caused Phoenix to be a leading growth market for the last six decades. But in addition to that, Phoenix now has affordable housing because the housing prices in Phoenix today are about half of what they were five years ago.

So entry level housing per employees a $600,000 house, four bedrooms, 4,000 feet and a nice gated suburban community, that was $600,000 five years ago, today it might be $300,000. So, it’s a big difference. And so there is that opportunity and it’s really helped to foster some very nice healthy growth for us.

Our leasing fundamental are very strong throughout the country. We just had an opening of a new Neiman Marcus Department Store at our Broadway Plaza Center in Walnut Creek in Northern California. That’s the center that we have targeted as our next quote Santa Monica Place. We were asked after we shutdown and reopen Santa Monica Place, do you have another projects, a withdrawing more that would be of the scale in terms of the transformation of it.

And we thought about it and that actually challenge this and we said, the one that really have the possibility for that kind of a dramatic change is Walnut Creek, because it’s a great center. We already have the right department stores. We have Nordstrom, one of the top Nordstrom’s in the U.S., great Macy’s, we now have this new Neiman, but we only have a small number of specialty stores.

So we’re actually talking to the city right now, Walnut Creek. We have our anchor approvals, where we’re looking to basically expand the specialty store offering at that center by little over 200,000 square feet. We’re pretty bullish on that opportunity.

That actually brings me into my discussion that I would like to share with you, which is a question that a lot of people have asked the last two days, which is, how big is your embedded or your development pipeline?

Our pipeline for the next two years is very clears. Its $600 million is our pro rata share of our development pipeline and it’s comprised of three projects. One is a new outlet center that we are building in Rosemont which is right near the O’Hare Airport, Chicago, Fashion Outlets of Chicago. It is our share of the project once our final investment is in we will be about $200 million. We do have a construction loan that will help to fund that over $140 million.

And it’s a project that is under construction. It opens in August of next year. We have a loan that’s been led I think by Wells Fargo. The center is currently has full documented leases, approaching 50% adding in letters of intent that are in lease negotiations, leasing statuses closer to 90% and the retailers are extremely bullish about that opportunity as we are.

We also are currently in pre-leasing stages of a second project that’s in our pipeline, which is at our newly acquired, Fashion Outlets of Niagara, in Niagara Falls. That is a 200,000 square foot expansion and we are in the pre-leasing phase of that.

We do anticipate that we will go forward. Delivery on that project will likely be two years from now, calendar 2014. The size of that project we have not decided on the ultimate scoop, but as a placeholder for this purpose let use a number of $100 million.

We are under construction on the infrastructure at the third major component of our development pipeline, which is Tysons Corner and our pro rata share of that is half of a $600 million projects, so our share is $300 million.

It is anticipated that we will complete the infrastructure which include subterranean parking for the office and the residential component by December or January of this year. With full delivery of the project anticipated to be made of the residential tower, which is roughly 500,000 feet and the office tower which is roughly 500,000 feet, and the hotel which is 300 rooms. All to be delivered by mid-2014, which is to coincide with the arrival a little bit before that of the new metro rail which will link Tysons Corner area to Downtown DC and then ultimately to Dallas.

We’ve been asked that we would expect the office component and we said, look, the market is strong enough that we would consider that. I don’t think it’s going to come down to that, because we’re already deep in the conversation with the couple of lead tenants and we are staging the construction in a way that we’re going to do the subterranean work between now and January.

From January, if we don’t have the leasing exactly where we want it on the office. We can cap off that parking garage on the office and go ahead and proceed to finish off the hotel and the residential, and then complete the office at such time as we would decide that we got the rooms that we want it. But as I see it, I’d assess in 80% to 90% profitability the construction will flow seamlessly through on the office component and that that will also be delivered in summer of 2014.

We wouldn’t most likely have that office building substantially pre-leased, if we were to continue to go vertical on it in January of 2013. So, Michael, that is a little bit of an addendum to our previously announced plans on how we view the office component at Tysons Corner. So that’s our development pipeline roughly $600 million over the next three years.

We are -- we will be funding that both through a combination of construction loan on Fashion Outlets of Chicago, as well as we currently are -- we’ve announced in our guidance that we do have some of dispositions. They are moving along in the ordinary course, so we can’t fully comment on them

But we did announced in guidance that there could be $350 million of dispositions of non-core assets not the mall assets, non-core assets in this case, more power center assets in the Arizona marketplace, as well as the possibility of an office building that we own up in the Seattle area in Redmond Town Center.

And those are moving along well between that our line of credit. We have plenty of funding sources. I’m also pleased to announce that I think the money is on the wired to pay off our convertible debentures tomorrow over the next day.

My friend Milton Cooper came up to me disappointing, he says, I can’t believe, he says, you are actually paying the off on those debentures. I said, you own them, says yeah, of course, I own them, since I want them back. But, so, yeah, we’re actually paying those off like tomorrow, the next day, so we are pleased to have that page behind us. And as a thank you to you Citi – Citi, I want, I’m actually I have a scoop for you today.

We just announced internally that we have made an agreement with a very substantial person in the shopping center industry to join Macerich as an Executive Vice President. His name is Bobby Perlmutter. He is a fellow that I have known for 20 years.

Bobby’s history was that he started his first 15 years at Heitman Retail Properties and at it’s peak he was the CEO of Heitman Retail Properties up through 1998 and they own 48 malls. They were very major player in the industry. They have malls such as, all interest in malls such as St. Louis Galleria, The Falls, Arden Fair in Sacramento and others.

After Heitman began to exit the mall ownership business directly as most comingled pension funds did in the 1990’s and they sold interest to folks like ourselves. Bobby went off and started the private company called Davis Street Land Company and assemble the portfolio of 3 million square feet of retail.

Highly productive centers that average around $650 of square foot, which he decided -- his partners decided to liquidate last fall and make sold one of them to General Growth, Plaza Frontenac and sold the other two to the Taubman Organization, just couple of months ago.

Apart the combination of that business transaction, we spoke with Bobby and one thing led to another, and we said, we love to have you join us, and he loves the business and we are thrilled that he is joining us. He will be our EVP at least. So there is a scoop.

Ed Coppola

And he had lower age.

Art Coppola

Yeah. He lowers our age bracket dramatically.

Ed Coppola

Yeah.

Art Coppola

He just turns up this so. He is -- he will be moving to Santa Monica from Chicago. And his real skills, yeah, we said, you’re great, we don’t really have an opening for you, this that kind of a conversation, but we’d love to have you with us.

Ed Coppola

We’ve doing what the giant did and the cowboys did, we are drafting talent.

Art Coppola

Anyway.

Ed Coppola

Yeah.

Art Coppola

We said, what you really love doing? He says, what I really love doing is leasing and merchandizing mix and that’s really where his focus is going to be. So we are out of time and our positioning in the marketplace, where we can afford to think about merchandizing mix as a way of increasing our productivity of our centers. We don’t have to think about just renewals because we do -- we are in the amiable position where with our asset base and with the demand from our tenants for our spaces that we can be a little more selective now both in terms of rent we take and merchants that we allow in our centers.

So we are very pleased to have him join us and we are very bullish on our view for this upcoming year. The development pipeline that we have is really completely embedded and in hand. We have other opportunities we are working on, but that’s our pipeline as of right now. We are going to continue on our path, our stated goal improving our portfolio with the overall goal to be to take fortress income and that’s the way we think about it, from what is currently, just over a 80 some percent of income that we think of eight quality dominant income to we want that number to be closer to a 100%.

And that’s a combination, will be done through a combination of adding fortress income and subtracting some of the more non-core income through dispositions and we are well along on that path and I think that as we proceed on that path two years from now, three years now, that percentage will be a much higher percentage, I think, we’ll be in an amiable position.

And I think, with that, maybe we should open it up to questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Great. Well, thank you so much for that and always appreciate scoop. That’s great. And how does Bobby sort of to move on the -- how does Bobby sort of fit within the organization in terms of reporting line and sort being EVP of leasing? How does that effect those that were doing it and does that free up your time and Ed time to do other things, and it’s always good to bring talent in and I’m just wondering how you sort of think about?

Art Coppola

Yeah. Bobby will be, look, he is one of the three Vice -- Executive Vice President’s and three of those folks will really be running the day-to-day operation of the business on the one hand and then working with the executive team, Ed, myself, Tom in running company on the another hand.

So there kind of the fulcrum of those two activities and yeah, I do see it has been something that is going to just be, when you got it somebody that’s knocking the ball over the fence for you, you can afford to be selective in the pitches that you look out. So it’s going to be a welcome, welcome addition, we think it’s going to be great chemistry fit, and yeah, it does free up time. It has the free up time.

And I’m very happy with the fact that over the last three years, I got a lot more involved in the day-to-day business operations of the leasing then I ever would have before, when I use to have intermediary between myself and leasing folks, but those time are move and I can be more helpful to the leasing team at a different level than transactionally.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Has Bobby gone to your assets already?

Ed Coppola

Well, he knows a bunch of this, because we bought them from people like Heitman over the years. So he knows.

Art Coppola

Yeah.

Ed Coppola

He know, Art barely manage Corte Madera they used to have an interest in, I mean, he knows a lot of them, so, yeah, he knows a ton of them.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

He has already filtered idea?

Art Coppola

He has given us more than a couple of ideas of what we should be doing in Chicago, his hometown in North Bridge Mall. So we are going to put him to the test on that right away.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Art, we’ve seen six to eight quarters of pretty strong retail sales growth and if you look at this year the numbers of the retail that you put out some of the tenants in your malls, the numbers suggest that that momentum is continuing.

Art Coppola

Yeah.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Just curious is to what your view is on, how long this kind of momentum in retail sales growth can last for?

Art Coppola

Well, I think, it’s going to, I think it’s going to last, because remember, we’re getting some decent sales growth even though the tenants are not chasing sales. The tenants are being stingy about sales, because they are protecting their margins. So the comp sales growth, if you can get decent comp sales growth at the same time that they are generating really good profit margins, that’s a great combination.

In the past we’ve had retailers, for example, who have had comp great comp sales increases, but they were buying the sales the phrase the people use by giving the merchandize away, by marking it down and they are not really making money on those increase in sales.

So, it’s a, look, the retailers as I see it, first of all, I’ve been saying for a while, but I think comp sales are irrelevant today as they’ve ever been. It’s a nice plus to have them be plus. But the really relevant fact that going on today is that the retailers are making money and that’s really the important thing.

And when you add to that the fact that they are making money and they are getting some nice sales increase. And they are getting that sales increase while being stingy about the inventory and they are getting that sales while unemployment and underemployment in the United States remains relatively high. You get some pick ups on the employment sector and things of that nature, and then you could really be getting some decent growth.

So, I mean, I think, for the foreseeable future the outlook is bright whether it be because you think there is going to be comp sales continuing to increase or the profit margins are going to continue to be maintain because the retailers made a secular change in the way that they did business, which they did, in fact do that in 2009 and 2010. They made secular changes to their business model and they quick chasing sales and they start chasing profit margin. So the outlook is good, very good.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

And you commented on Arizona some of the positive things you’ve seen there the sales growth but some industries moving into that market. Could maybe compare what you’re seeing in Arizona to one of your other key markets being Southern California?

Art Coppola

There is no comparison, that comparison would be not Southern California. First of all, two out of every five people that move to Phoenix come from California somewhere. So there is some relationship.

Southern California is all about a digital media world. I mean, in West LA right now, I think, 56% of our employment base is related to the entertainment world or the media world, or digital world, that we are in the convergence of all that.

So, I mean, that’s what driving West LA and you talk to Douglas Emmett and guys like that, I mean, the West LA our office market is pretty hot right now I think and of course the housing market is strong.

The things driving Phoenix is more corporate HQ headquarters looking to relocate there. So you’ve got that type of activity is what’s happening and/or existing companies are adding to like I think Intel added another whatever the number was 5,000 jobs to the chamber operation at last year, and First Solar made a deal with our partner DMB, on some land that DMB owns in the…

Ed Coppola

GM Proving Ground.

Art Coppola

In the GM Proving Ground east of Gilbert, a couple thousand employees, but that’s just like the sprouts, I mean that’s just the early indicators. There are some significant businesses that are looking to relocate to Phoenix and I think that’s going to continue. And that’s part of there is function of that Phoenix is has the weather of parts of California and not the government regulation, so parts of California.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

I think if I sort of had spud into you might be a year or two ago you would have been more, probably more positive on the Goodyear project getting done sometime later this year? What change there, are you less confident on that getting that project going now or is that just being pushed out into the future? What are the department stores saying about that site?

Art Coppola

I think it’s just more of an appreciation that there, that generationally our company is not going to have more than a couple new ground full price regional malls that we are going to be able to build in the next-generation and I don’t want to rush it.

And you are going to make your money on that, when you build it and tell you have some tailwinds both either through employment growth in the West Phoenix marketplace or just the retailers getting excited about Phoenix.

While Phoenix is doing much better, the retailers still are not exactly completely rushing through coming to the market, we get good leasing demand but it’s not something, we also have to cognizant in terms of that land of competing developments that are going on and there is a development that’s going on, about 10 miles away or 11 miles away in Glendale that’s bringing some retail online. We don’t think it would prudent to bring another 350,000 feet full price retail online at the same time somebody else is bringing a like amount of off price retail online.

So it’s just factoring everything into consideration. We still think it is absolutely the most under serve piece of the Phoenix MetroPlex. It certainly worthy of them all in the future but we only want to build when we get a tailwind certainly not a little bit of headwind which is what I feel right now, it’s a little bit of headwind.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

And your outlet project that you’re being looking at doing in around Scottsdale.

Art Coppola

Yeah.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Will this sort of just a lack of tenant demand there, or you just sort of trying to protect your market by not bringing extra space online in the market, given what’s happening in Glendale and so forth?

Art Coppola

The tenants would love to be there with us. I don’t think we could debate it forever amongst the three developers that are working in that market and we are one of them. But I know a lot of retailers are telling us that they think our site is the best of the three sites.

Having said that, we will not participate in adding to situation, where the market become over build in anyway, whether it would be overbuild with too much outlet product, or two, overbuild with too full price product.

I mean, our -- pushing out Goodyear a little bit is part of saying, we are not going to participate in overbuilding, in that case it was just retail overbuilding and saying that, look, we’d see Glendale situation apparently moving forward. It doesn’t make sense to between the two markets, be adding 650,000 feet of specialty space all at one time even though half of its retail and at full price a half of its outlet.

We still think we have a great location. We think it’s a best location. But if we are going to deliver outlet to that location, we want to do it at the time where the supple and demand situation is in our favor and where it’s not in favor of the tenants. If all three projects were to be in construction at the same time, the tenants would be in-charge not the landlords.

So we are not going to jump into that one. So from our view point, I don’t see us doing anything in the outlet arena in Phoenix Scottsdale market any time soon that could change. But any time soon I would say, no.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Is there question from the audience? Art, can you talk a little bit Santa Monica place and now that it’s been open for awhile and if got the chance to re-merchandize a little bit and figure out the appropriate mix there, how that’s trending and what other opportunities you have to make that asset better?

Art Coppola

Yeah. I mean, I think there is huge opportunities to make Santa Monica place better. We -- it’s a great project. It average is probably just under $1,000 a foot today. And but it’s feast or famine type of tenant mix which is a function of the time when we built it. We leased that center in the spring of 2009, which was about as better time as we could have to be leasing a shopping center.

Now the good news is most centers that were built and that were leased in 2009 that are currently open. They get great upside and Santa Monica is one of them.

Our luxury tenants are doing fabulous and we have pretty significant line up of luxury tenants that would like to come there with us and we are currently in discussion with a significant amount of our square footage in that center, I would say, 501% of the space on the first and second level of that center could get recycled over the next three to five years to another user.

And the rents that were getting anecdotally as we look to recycle space and this is not, a formula, it’s just, I’m reporting anecdotally that we tent to get about 50% more rents and some cases even the rent as we think about recycling. Part of it is that it's really only worth it to us to think about recycling if we can bring them dramatically.

But that effect is available to us, it’s -- it happens with great centers. It happened at Queens Center when we did our expansion there, that when you open a great center it becomes really apparent in first year, what, who the winners are and who the losers. And the winners are become obvious to like minded retailers and they line up to replace the people who they all know are not serving the market very well. So it becomes radar went it and which what retail is.

So we are actually in the second generation of leasing that you normally wouldn’t get and tell the 10 year role of leases, it actually is beginning to happen right now and it’s driven by, you have new retailers that want to come that it’s obvious to them that they can do a tenant business, that they are willing to pay a lot of rent to be and that makes the conversation of recycling space more palatable for everybody concerned.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

And the return on that capital, given the increase rents is increasing your effective yield on the projects, even though you had pay TIs twice?

Art Coppola

Yeah. And so, at this point in time, I don’t really see the capital, the TI conversation is being meaningful in this particular conversation because everything we are talking about to-date is as is where is that it simply replacing the exiting the tenants.

And if -- we if -- might if there were TIs involved you are talking about TIs that might represent two months rent. I mean, it’s not significant on the overall scheme of things, because you’re talking about space that might be $300 foot of space per year on rent, I mean, these are high rents.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Art, can you just maybe comment on the process for the Willets Point potential development?

Art Coppola

We’re not allowed to comment on that.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Okay.

Art Coppola

By virtue of the confidentiality agreement we have with City of New York. But I would say the likelihood of us doing something there is pretty slim.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Right.

Art Coppola

Pretty slim because I think the city has issues that are bigger than they can manage on their own, but we’ll see. I would say it’s pretty slim that we are going to do anything. Although, we remain interested, we think it’s great site.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Yeah. And then just with Walnut Creek, what else do you are doing in terms of the entitlement process and working with the local government.

Art Coppola

So we are negotiating with the local government for entitlements. We -- think we have certain entitlements under the master plan. We think that the plan that we have not want to get into too much detail. But we think it’s doable both under then exiting anchor agreements and the current zoning that we have. It’s going to require some corporation from Walnut Creek. But I met with city officials last week when I was there for the Neiman Marcus opening and they are very pro business.

One of the reasons that California city are very pro business right now, is that Governor Brown recently eliminated the redevelopment agencies and took the money away from the redevelopment agencies and all the cities of California, so the cities now are looking for new revenues sources and so they are very pro business.

If you are building something that doesn’t cost them any new infrastructure or they don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to build the new school. They don’t have to hire more police or fireman and you’re just enhancing the tax base, the welcome mat is out for you at California, they are open for business.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Any last question from anyone? Okay. So this is between us and cocktail. I know there are -- we're all going to be in agreement on this one. What was same-store NOI growth be for the regional mall sector in 2013?

Ed Coppola

So do we get one vote here or can we have multiple votes?

Michael Bilerman – Citi

You could have multiple votes. We would get three different answers. This is great.

Art Coppola

For Macerich 4%.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

And for the regional mall sector in totality?

Ed Coppola

Does that include everybody?

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Everyone, entire sector?

Art Coppola

What is it today then I’ll tell you.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

2013.

Art Coppola

What do you think it is in ’12, according to guidance?

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Almost 3%.

Art Coppola

What’s the consensus?

Michael Bilerman – Citi

About 3%.

Ed Coppola

It might be little bit more than three.

Art Coppola

Yeah. I would say, it’s little bit more, yeah, I’d say…

Michael Bilerman – Citi

With all the cats and dogs?

Art Coppola

Well, if all the cats and dogs are got to 3% for ’12, I think ’13 might be a little bit better, yeah. Because I think tenants are not capitulating, but I think that they are beginning realize that that the supply is not going to be increase and they have their appetite for demand. So, let’s say, if all the cats and dogs relate -- result in a 3% this year, the next year would be a little bit more 3.5%.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

You concurring or you going higher or lower?

Art Coppola

But I said Macerich is 4%.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Okay.

Ed Coppola

That’s in our guidance.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

I know well 3%.

Ed Coppola

Yeah. I agree with Art, I think I'd expect '13 to be at least 50 basis points better on average on same store NOI.

Art Coppola

You know the micro it has to be.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

I hope I’m wrong.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

If you has to what property sector other then your own would you invest in right now?

Art Coppola

If it was part of one of our malls, residential, I’d say, pretty comfortable.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

What is the best real estate decision to make today, build, buy or sell?

Art Coppola

All three.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

I mean there is no D but that’s…

Art Coppola

All -- we’re doing all three.

Ed Coppola

We’re doing all the above.

Michael Bilerman – Citi Michael Bilerman – Citi

I know but which one do you think -- which one is going to drive the most value right now?

Tom O'Hern

For us building.

Art Coppola

Selling.

Ed Coppola

I mean, we’re doing all three.

Art Coppola

What is the other one (inaudible).

Michael Bilerman – Citi

No. I’m not going to tick. Well, [Doug Lindy] said finance.

Art Coppola

Finance, well, so, yeah, we didn’t give us that.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

I know, that’s why…

Art Coppola

But I didn’t start.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

But he was second one. No one else had heard this question. He was right on.

Ed Coppola

So, I said all three. So we did -- we -- did anybody else say all three.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Yeah. Few people and then, there was a few of those.

Art Coppola

Buying is hard to combine, but, building in our growth is okay, if we get the right location then selling is pretty okay. I like both of those.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

And then we are coming to Phoenix April 17th.

Unidentified Speaker

16th and 17th, so if anybody wants to join we'll be giving Phoenix and Macerich's exposure in the market, just let us know, we have a few spot.

Art Coppola

Glad you reminded me, obviously, I’ll see you at dinner that night.

Ed Coppola

You'll be able to smell the orange flop.

Art Coppola

Thank you everybody.

Michael Bilerman – Citi

Thanks.

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