Simon Property Group stock fell by 0.3 percent to $186.28 after the company disappointed investors with fourth-quarter earnings. The stock had dropped over 3 percent in earlier trading due to lowered guidance, but the company reassured investors about mall traffic on the earnings call and the losses were trimmed.
The real estate company known for its mall holdings reported in-line funds from operations of $2.40 – which exceeded consensus estimates of $2.38. However, revenues rose 6.5 percent year-over-year to $1.38 billion, missing the Capital IQ estimate of $1.4 billion. Simon Property group issued guidance for fiscal 2016 of FFO in the range of $10.70 to $10.80, which is lower than the Capital IQ estimate of $10.90.
Net income was $392.3 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, which was lower than last year’s $405 million or $1.30 a share, for the same time period.
David Simon, Simon Property Group chief executive officer when asked about complaints of slowing mall traffic from retailers on the earnings conference call emphatically said that was not the case. Simon said that mall traffic was flat for the year, including the holiday season, and emphasized that his data was fact based. He suggested that others based their traffic data on algorithms. “The mall traffic is what we say it is, our comp sales are what they are,” said Simon.
Simon suggested that shoppers are more educated from online research and that when they come into the malls they go into less stores. He believes that is why some stores are complaining about traffic. The traffic is there, but only entering specific stores. He also said that traffic at premium outlets increased 1.5 percent for the year and more than 2 percent for the holidays.
“I am very pleased to report another year of industry-leading growth with record earnings and dividends for our company,” said Simon. “Over the last five years, our FFO and dividends per share have achieved compound annual growth rates of 14 percent and 18 percent, respectively. We expect to achieve industry-leading growth again in 2016, driven by our unparalleled execution, irreplaceable assets and fortress balance sheet.”
Comparable-property net operating income growth for the 12 months ending December 2015 was 3.7 percent and growth for the fourth quarter was 3.4 percent. Simon said that the fourth quarter was affected by a year-over-year decrease in overage rent due to the effect the stronger dollar had on tenant sales at the company’s tourist oriented centers.
Occupancy as of December 2015 was 96.1 percent, a drop from last year’s 97.1 percent. That represents mall stores and all owned square footage in premium outlets. Simon noted that the number came down partly as a result of bankrupt tenants and partly due to the timing of lease-ups. The company is also projecting an increase in the occupancy rates for next year.
Simon opened two new premium outlets and completed two significant expansions. Additionally, there are 29 different projects underway with Simon spending roughly $2.1 billion on the properties. The company also noted that many e-tailers are now opening physical stores.
Simon also declared a dividend of $1.60, a 14.3 percent increase year-over-year.