Pure Cycle: Wall Street Analyst Forum Presentation Transcript

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Pure Cycle Corporation (NASDAQ:PCYO) Wall Street Analyst Forum February 15, 2007 9:50 AM ET



Alyssa Akers - Wall Street Analyst Forum

Mark Harding - President & CEO

Alyssa Akers

Good morning everyone. Pure Cycle Corporation is an investor-owned water and wastewater service provider engaged in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems.

Pure Cycle is vertically integrated in water and wastewater services through owning a valuable water supply in the water short regions as well as the facilities, which produce, treat, store and deliver water to its customers. The company owns one of the largest unallocated portfolios in the Denver metropolitan area and markets its water and wastewater services to area developers, homebuilders, institutes and municipalities.

Attending and speaking today for the company is Mark Harding, who is the President and CEO of Pure Cycle.


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Mark Harding

Good morning. I want to thank you Wall Street Analyst Forum for the opportunity to present here today. I'd like this forum to be a little bit more intimate. Jeff and I present at a lot of water conferences. And they're usually a big group where we don't have the opportunity to really get intimate with what it is that we do. So I'd like to first thank you all for coming out on a very cold morning.

What I'll do today is really kind of overview a little bit about Pure Cycle, give you an overview of sort of the industry, and then maybe drill down a little bit in why it is that we are excited about our opportunities here in the Denver metro markets and then what some of the differentiations are in water providers outlast compared to water providers in the aggregate.

With that, I will introduce our Safe Harbor statement, which you're all familiar with. So I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it. Let me give you an overview of the Company. Pure Cycle does what all investor-owned water companies do. We provide water and wastewater systems to customers.

Our particular market segment happens to be in the Denver metropolitan area. And a little bit different than most companies, one of the things that differentiate us over others is that we are what we define as a vertically integrated company.

We own our water supply, which is a little bit unique outlast in addition to the fact that we own the facilities that develop and produce those water supplies, the production facilities, the treatment to storage, and the distribution system.

We operate in two primary business segments. One of those is going to be defined by the construction segment, where we design and construct our water and wastewater system. Now, these are systems that the company owns as well as systems that we manage on behalf of others.

The segment is what you would traditionally find is that we operate those systems through our service segment, where we maintain water and wastewater systems, again systems that we own and systems that we manage for others.

What may differentiate us from -- how we view our business focus is that we own the physical supply. We have one of the largest unallocated portfolios of water in the Denver area. And just to illustrate, we have water assets in three predominant watersheds in the State of Colorado

Our Denver based assets, which are going to be in the Platte River watershed, enables us to have water -- we have 30,000 acre feet of groundwater, 8,000 acre feet of actually surface water in the Platte system, and storage rights in the metropolitan area.

Through a recent acquisition, we acquired a very senior Arkansas River asset, 60,000 acre feet of water in the Arkansas area. And we also own assets in the Colorado River systems. So we have water assets in the three principal river basins in the City of Colorado.

Our assets translate into our ability to provide service. And so what we define as a single-family equivalent, which is our metrics of measure is that the amount of water that's capable of providing service to a standard, single-family house, our East slope assets.

And those are going to assets that are east of the continental divide, defined by the Denver asset and the Arkansas River, and the combined capacity to provide water service to 180,000 single family connection. And I'll spend a little bit of time on that a little bit later in the presentation.

I want to talk a little bit about why water is important. A lot of companies will talk about what the private sector's rule is in the water business. And really there is four principal areas where the private sector will add value to this industry.

One is investor-owned companies operate on efficiency. Private sector prides itself on being able to do it better for cheaper. And generally speaking, I think, that's true but there is some limit to efficiencies in the system. I think private sector companies bring relationships into this business.

This is a relationship business where you have to have relationships with your customers, you have to have a relationship with cities and municipalities, and you have to have relationships with the regulatory agency. And as you find yourself in an increasingly changing regulatory environment, the private sector has the ability to adapt a little bit more efficiently and a little quicker than maybe some of the municipal or government owned water system.

Thirdly, you take a look at investments. Private sector is going to bring investment into the equation. That's part of what it is that they are doing, either through system modernization, upgrades, expansions or regulatory compliance.

And last, we have the fourth element, which is little bit different is that we're bringing a new element that is metric centered. It is the supply. In a limited market -- supply market, one of the things that the private sector has is the ability to bring ownership of that asset, of the water supply into a city or municipality that they can inventory that so that they can continue to grow their cities and service areas. So we create value through the available supply.

Why is that important in Colorado? Well, there is not a lot of supply of water in Colorado. The state on average receives about 17 inches of participation a year. And to be sure, there are more users for water than there is water available to provide that. Nothing will more dramatically impact Colorado's future than the long-term availability of water supply.

If you take a look at the metropolitan Denver area, the Denver area actually ran out of water dating as far back as the 1960s. And that's where the population of Denver actually exceeded the capacity of the river basins that there was even supply to the number of people that were living in there. And so, since then, the region has continued to import water.

Let me give you kind of a magnitude of what that problem is. Approximately, 85% of the state water supply falls west of the Continental Divide. And nearly, 90% of the state population happen to live east of the Continental Divide. That's just a natural disconnect between where people are and where the water happens to flow.

Since that 1960 day, what we see is we see people bringing importing water from the west lobe or from the Arkansas or from any of the other river basins into the Platte River basin, because it just simply didn't have enough water.

What this shows us is there is a high barrier of entry into this market. It's very costly. And all of looking through has been developed over the 50 years to bring that water supply into the area. So it's going to be more costly to incrementally continue to bring more and more water into those urban centers.

On the permit of interior, take a look at water in the west, and it is true that the state's population mass, if you take a look at dividing the states up in north-south and the Mississippi River, we have more than half of the land mass in the United States and approximately only 14% of the available water supply.

And so what they were looking at is where are regions out in west going to experience water supply crisis. These are -- where there is not enough physical available water to meet the growing demand for that. Denver happens to be one of those areas that's highly likely to have a water supply problem. We already have a water problem.

What's so different about Denver than maybe some of these other areas that you can see in the coastal areas along Texas or in California is we don't have a solution for this. Ultimately, at some price, along the costal areas, you do have the ability to take a water supply -- it may not be an acceptable water supply because it's ocean salt water, but there is a physical solution where you can take a supply and treat that and increase the overall supply.

The Denver area does not have that luxury. We have a limitation because there is just physically no available water. Again, that's going to play into why we think it's a good position to own water in the Denver area as well as what that matrix is going to -- how important that matrix is going to be moving forward.

Let me talk a little bit about owning water. Water ownership is defined throughout the United States at the local level. Each individual state set their own policies and governances for owning the water.

Generally speaking, east of the Mississippi River, water ownership is defined by something known as the Riparian based system. And I'll very similarly define the differentiations between the Riparian East Coast System versus the West Coast system, which is defined by something known as the Appropriative System.

Under the Riparian System, water ownership issues are typically limited to the properties which are adjacent or abut the river. So if you own a particular piece of property, you own the use rights of that waterway as it goes by there. And you can divert and use that water for enjoyment of your life.

Some of the restrictions on Riparian ownership issues are that there are usually limitations on being able to transfer that water out of the basin and there are usually limitations on their ability to transfer water separate apart from the land. But typically what you find is water is sold with the land.

Contrasting that to how we deal with it in the west. We knew we didn't have enough water, and we knew that the water -- where water was is probably not where we were going to want to use it. So we developed a system that is an Appropriative based system where you can use water both within or outside the drainage basin.

There is particular elements to protect those ownership of water as a real property right. And you can sever that real property right from the property itself. So you can sell water either with the property or you can keep your property and sell water separately from the property and transfer that from one property to another from one drainage basin to another.

And then it was further complex by the fact that what they try to do is they defined it based on a priority system, where you imagine running a stream through a weir, a measuring device. They cut that floor volume of the stream up on something known as the first-in-time, first-in-right basis. So you've got a priority system of use.

All water in the State of Colorado has been appropriated. And so what you now have is you have a secondary market for competing interest buying individual water interest based on its priority. The more senior your idea is, the more valuable your idea.

The second type of law that defines water ownership in Colorado is something very amalgamated to a mineral ownership interest where you own the surface you own everything on the surface and everything beneath the surface, much like oil and gas.

And there's a mechanism -- there is a system -- administrative system in the State of Colorado that actually quantifies how much water you own beneath your property. And then they regulate the development of that. So that's going to be under a mineral-based interest.

Applying notes. We're governed under those two western philosophies. One is the appropriation system and one is the mineral interest. The thing that's unique about Colorado is that the ownership of water and the commerce over that ownership of water is not regulated by the Public Utility Commission

They do not and intentionally have not wanted to interfere with what a real property right owner can sell their water for. If they want to sell their water or if they do not want to sell their water, they don't to interfere with that process.

The further protection that they've added on that was that cities and municipalities just because they may think that they have a higher and better use for that water cannot use their powers of eminent domain to compel somebody to sell their water. So what that has created is a free market system where buyers and sellers of water will do transaction based on what they perceived to be as the relative economic value.

Talking a little bit more about our business segment -- our two definable business segments. Our construction segment is where we actually design construct and build our water systems. And there's a whole mechanism for us to be able to do that.

There's a separate funding mechanism where cities and municipalities will charge an access fees, and we define that to be as a "tap fees." And tap fees are set so that new growth areas actually pay the increased cost of water. So you that floating market segment for what the cost of taps are going to be.

Those taps typically grant a developer a right to access that system, and we have certain responsibilities associated with those taps. We're responsible for building a portion of the system, which we define as a wholesale system. We divine the well, the treatment, and the storage associated with that. There's a further obligation from the developer to build the distribution systems.

They are the ones that build the roads and create the gutters. And at the time that they are building up, they also build the network of distribution systems. They build that to our design standards and then they dedicate that system over to us to operate and maintain. Tap fees are typically paid by the developers. So those are going to be amortized in the cost of a single-family house.

On the service segment side, those are what you traditionally think of as your water revenues. Your monthly water and wastewater bills. And those funding segments are meter deliveries to the homes, flat monthly fees on the wastewater side that allow us to continue to operate and maintain our systems.

We kind of defined how we set our pricing, because that's an important structure on why and how our revenues are derived. We have a system that's derived by polling, surrounding water providers and finding out what their rates and charges are, and charging comparable rates and charges to them.

This is an illustration of our three rate-based districts and our not current rate based averaging outsource out of these now, for a single family house are $16,800 per single family pack. That uses about 0.4 acre feet of water a year. If we define where are the Company’s inventory is our inflow of assets we have the capacity to serve 180,000 connections.

In addition, to our tap fees we also get our base monthly fees. And there is really two key instruments there, one there is wastage, so in the event that you use no water you're on vacation for that particular month, you pay a flat base fee. And then there is a consumption charge.

And the consumption charge is actually an inversely related consumption charge. The more water you use, the more water you pay, you don't get a discount on that. Incrementally, that price continues to increase and there is a couple of reasons for that.

One is that the cost of that water supply continues to grow in value, but it also is a conservation.

It’s kind of being on, you know, polling with a little bit more readable at this scale. This is kind of a polling of some of the tap fees in the metropolitan market. We've kind of an unusual municipal structure in the field of Colorado and particularly in metropolitan area.

In the Denver metropolitan area, we have over 50 different water providers and this is sort of a polling of some of the tap fees in and around the area. Every individual water provider has there own tap fee structure. They get their own rates and charges. And so this will be illustrative of where our rates and charges are compare to some of the other developing areas.

And as you can see, these are 2006 rates. We have not adjusted these rates for 2007. But tap fees are in the ranging in the low side of 14,000 to the high side of over 20,000. This is really you know, the station of the increased value of water over the last five years. If you take a look at where tap fees has gone, and tap fees are going to be the most indicative measure for what the price of water is in the metropolitan area.

Tap fees have increased over 75%. And we're looking at an increase between '06 and '07 charges of over 16%, moving our tap fees up near the $20,000 for single family equivalent. How that translates into revenue for the company, as I mentioned we have inventory capacity about 180,000 single family equivalent.

And if you take a look that, we did both water and wastewater taps. So doing some of the math on that. If you take look at the water side will generate around $3 billion in gross revenue wastewater around $900 million. So we get about $4 billion gross revenue side on the tap fee side and then you have annual revenues associated with that, typically are single family homes will spend about $1000 per year, $600 on the water side, $400 on the fuel side to operate and maintain their system.

As that translates into margins for the company, we do have obligations to build systems in that and so our facility cost are generated around 20%, 24%, 25% royalties. We have a complex royalty structure, but on average it's going to roughly be around 22% giving us net proceeds, net cash proceeds on that from the tap side -- of the capital side of business is little over 50%.

On the operating side of the business , you know we spend about 40% in operating the system, then royalties to our partner which is lets say around 16% giving us net operating margin about 45% on the operating side. So that's kind of an analysis about how these systems come into play.

I alluded to earlier that we have kind of a complex municipal structure here in the Colorado area and particularly the Denver area. Some of the drivers for municipal structures here are the majority of the municipal revenues in the state are derived through sales taxes. They have very modest property tax, very modest income tax, and I would say, modest sales tax. But a high percentage of cities and municipalities’ revenue streams will come from those sale taxes, you see.

What that has done is it’s put a competitive market for cities and municipalities, which start out by saying, look, you develop or bring your project to us, because we think we can go better than the neighboring city and municipality.

Water became a pivotal tool in that, because cities and municipalities started to have limited water supplies. And so those that had water were able to attract that growth, where those that did not were sort of watching a more maturing side of their revenue side.

And so it’s created a terribly inefficient form of government. We have over 70 different providers between Colorado and the Denver market that provide separate water and wastewater system.

Let's talk a little bit about business drivers in the Denver area and what growth is looking like in the Denver area, because our business model is really tied to adding new connection to our system.

The Denver area continues to be a rapidly growing metropolitan area. We have a current population around 2.6, 2.7 million people. Our subjective population increase is about 1.3 million people over the next twenty years. And that translates then to from our standpoint an additional 400,000 single-family equivalent, about 200,000 acre feet of increased demand, 130 million gallons of increased wastewater.

And the largest growth sector in the Denver metropolitan area is in fact the market where we are serving, the Southeast metropolitan sub-market.

If you look at the local housing performance for 2006, Denver added around 21,500 jobs in 2006 and that compares to losing about 60,000 workers in 2002, had a terrific absorption of vacant office space. And we have a very low-end employment base.

We have a very highly educated workforce and a very active employment rate. We are at full employment, I think, full employments defined in somewhere around 5%. So we really have a very aggressive job market, even more aggressive than the national.

And we typically add about 20,000 single-family connections a year in the local market. 2006 was a little bit soft at around 16,000. Not only was it soft because of the local housing -- the national housing trend, but it was also soft, because we had a very, very -- how I would say -- unusual winter this year, having a lot of snow. And that does not bode very well for housing starts in the winter months.

I’ll just kind of show you where we are in proximity to the metropolitan area. We're in the southeast quadrant. We've got the Lowry Range, which is going to be our service area, where Denver is a traditional wheel in south transportation system. You have a very high capacity, what we define as high capacity, north-south interstate transportation system, east-west transportation system. And so developing network to navigate traffic around the city and we happen to be in that growth corridor in the south-east area where growth has been trend.

As you take a look at the real estate on that, you have most of all of the development growing east of I-25. And that's because you have a natural barrier to the west, you have the mountains to the west, where you can't really grow anymore residential capacities going along in the west side. And then maybe you divide that equally in north and south, between the east-west transact having urbanization occur up in the Denver Airport area and then urbanization occurring in the south-east quadrant.

There are currently development along three sides of the property, lot of development along the southern border, very high density single-family development along the western border and then single-family, high-density single-family development on the northern border.

Let me drove down on that a little bit and really highlight some of the key specific drivers of what we see as energy in that. Currently, we're serving a very modest number of taps, a little over 200 single-family taps. And our partner Wastewater Development owns the real property in the state of Colorado, owns the real property that we have the relationship to provide water and wastewater service. The landlord is looking at that property as an opportunity to generate revenue and this particular agency within the Colorado generates revenue for school truck business.

And they are looking at this asset as one of the more valuable assets that they have in their portfolio and in 2005, they start to bring in a development partner. They are not actually the one that develops their assets, they develop their assets in conjunction with the private sector, whether they bring somebody in for an oil and gas lease or a co-lease (inaudible), so, in fact, the development partner as in this case.

And so they went through public process where they submitted this outpour bid and they had competing bids in December of last year, selected a developer that they chose to have exclusive negotiations with in being able to develop this process, this company's name is Lend Lease.

I will talk a little bit about Lend Lease. Lend Lease is an Australian-based international developer. They have operations in 40 countries worldwide, and they are a very experienced master plan developer.

In addition to, say, Land Board property, we have water service agreements with another personal property up in the top part of that slide called Sky Ranch which is along the Interstate-70 corridor. Sky Ridge had in 2005 entered into an agreement with a national homebuilder to take a look at developing that property and the national builder is looking at timeline and his options of when they want to start that project.

The project that we're very excited about. There is up to 5000 single-family connections that are zoned to that particular property and that one will start when the developer decides what it is they want to do, that's one of the areas that the company does not control the timing of that development. But the markets -- I think they are looking at the overall market and figuring out when they want to start that project and what their options are. There is a tremendous amount of demand for that project and they are going to take a look at their options on when they want to start work.

We are in close contact with them to try to figure out and match our investments and infrastructure time with their start of construction on that. And then a several other projects that are really bringing energy into this area. You can take a look at the whole icon in the top right corner, there it is a project known as The Transport, which is a multimodal transportation facility. That is being relocated all of the heavy real facilities from downtown vendor to that particular area.

I’ll talk a little bit of about that particular project, it’s a interesting project. In 2005, University of Colorado and the Denver metropolitan has one of the largest plant issue for the state for a low pay passages real consolidate component of that. One of the things they had to do was to relocate the heavy water facilities from downtown out to this particular area.

And that process is now started they’re breaking ground on that project later this year. And it is a tremendous opportunity for the region, because it’s going to take growth driver, and it’s got a lot of job. I feel that the transport related developments looking to employ as many as 50,000 employees out in that area. So that’s the key metrics driver into what’s bringing energy out into 570 quarter.

We’ll talk a little bit about Lend Lease, which is the say Land Board’s partner in developing new area. They are a leading international retail and residential property developers. And they have 30 year track record where they have projects worldwide, and as we mentioned earlier they have projects not only in the United States, they have projects here in Colorado area, but they also do as many lot of activity here in the New York with the World Trade Center, Transit hub and then some of other major projects throughout the nation.

They are very skilled and focused on long-term large scale master plan community projects and so they’re going to bring a tremendous amount of expertise and development for Land Board project. We’re delighted to have them on board and we’re looking forward to working with them and the State Land Board in this aggregate project. We need to draw this exposure the key differentiation for the company is, our ability to provide value through owning their supply.

And that value is created by virtue of our relationship with builders. In this particular case, State Land Board is our partner and Lend Lease is being able to bring value to development where they are now able to turn our debt into a master plan community and have the resources to do that.

So with that, I think we'll draw presentation with bit of closure and see if there's any specific question I might be able to answer.


Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Mark Harding

You bet. So let me just repeat the question for those who are listening on the web. Question was that the Company has shown what the economics are for adding connection to the systems. Can we really talk a little bit more about what the revenues are and what our pipeline for revenue is going to be in the coming years?

We serve in modest number of safety connections as I mentioned we serve about 200 safety connections measures those are our current revenues. We generate around $300,000 a year in recurring revenues from servicing those 200 plus connections.

The main drivers are when the Company starts building these metropolitan communities and we have two of them in our pipeline, we've got Ranch project as well as the Lowry Range project. And typically metropolitan communities get started they build about 500 connection in the year, depending on the size of the community and the overall scope of the development and taking a look at that. If we start with that and I’ll just illustrate that by virtue of Sky Ranch transaction.

Our Sky Ranch transaction the builder has the inventory 400 caps for there first phase of the project. Before they get first occupancy of there home they have to inventory those 400 caps. What that does for us is it provides revenues so that we can actually incrementally build those systems.

We are in a position with our resources that we don't have to build the bunch of excess capacity in event of having customers for that capacity. Similarly the developer doesn't have to inventory the whole bunch of the excess capacity either. They can inventory one year's worth the path, they have ended that path and then even they can grow it from that. And so you take a look at some of those economics.

If you take a look at – I'm just going to use some easy numbers for math purposes. $20,000 peer connection. The developer we take development risk with the builders. And the developers take price risk until they actually inventory that path. They are going to have to pay whatever the outstanding arrears for that current year, when they buy that. And so when Sky Ranch were to start this year, they will pay whatever the 2007 rates.

So if they were at $20,000 they will provide about $8 million in revenue to the company. And so then we would grow organically from there depending on the timing of the number of projects that we're adding on. But currently our revenues are relatively modest. They will stay around $300,000 a year. Any another questions? Yes.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Mark Harding

Question was we had through our slide illustrating what opportunities might be driving some of the growth in the quarter being, if there's going be to 50,000 jobs created as a result of this transport projects?

The job creation is necessarily on net growth of jobs. And so what you're looking at is there will be some jobs that we locate from where those facilities are currently which is in the downtown area add to that. And then you have the population dynamic which is we're adding 1.3 people over 20 year period.

So if you look at a linear progression on that. You know, that would average out to be about 20,000 jobs connections a year. And those are immigrations there are certain organic growth immigrations when a population is growing from 2.6 to some piece of that. But you have to come – I really don’t have the answer in term of how much of that is going to be new immigration for the state versus organic growth of the state. But it's really heavily weighted towards organic growth of the state. Not a lot of immigrations. Yes.

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Mark Harding


Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Mark Harding

That's a good question. The question is that the developer is required to inventory a certain number of path on an annual bases. Now he doesn't have a timeline when he's supposed to start that. But once he starts those then the inventory will start. The question being what happens if sees are falls does the accounts would roll back to the company?

They actually don't, they actually go with the land. So when he inventories it he's block those path all though receive those revenues. There maybe an inventory where he has yet to back those caps. And so if he doesn't buy those caps going forward, that's okay. We don't have the build the infrastructure associated with that.

And we can continue to take market risks with that developer as we add those systems. But on the first phase of that more or the same they come out of the ground. He does that inventory that was for first 400. That's a good question. Okay. Follow-up?

Unidentified Audience Member

[Question Inaudible]

Mark Harding

You've got it. Question being, how is some of the other infrastructure supply and demand characteristic like electric power for the region. And whether not that’s Denver with its growth is going to able apparently?

Whether or not Denver area is going to be able to maintain that growth rate given some of the other infrastructure requirements like power. You know the local public electric utility is very much on top of those forecast and they are bringing on generation capacity on an incremental basis.

They have a plant that just came online in 2006, which was something like 600 mega watts that was an expansion and they have got several plants that have been at various stages of the permitting processing and construction process. So they are very much tight into making sure that they have capacity to meet that growing demand.

Okay. You know, I'll be available after the presentation, if you have any follow-up questions. And I'd like to thank you for you attention. And if you have any questions please feel free to call. Thank you.


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