An increase in full-year revenue and profits doesn’t seem to be enough to get Wall Street excited about Simon Property Group.
Shares of the upscale mall operator dipped 2.33 percent to $160.28 after it revealed consolidated net income attributable to shareholders of $1.94 billion for the year ended Dec. 31, a 5.9 percent increase over 2016. Total revenue for 2017 came in at $5.54 billion, compared to $5.44 billion the year before, and funds from operations totaled $4.02 billion.
Simon only managed to eke out a small increase in revenue for the fourth quarter, which could be cause for Wall Street’s lack of enthusiasm. The company posted quarterly revenue of $1.427 billion, compared to $1.425 billion a year ago, while consolidated net income attributable to shareholders came in at $571.1 million, compared to $394.4 million.
David Simon, chairman and chief executive officer of the group, said during a call with analysts that the year was “very good” for the company and noted that funds from operations have increased $1 billion over the last four years.
Simon said the increase is the result of “active portfolio management, disciplined investments, relentless focus on leasing and property management operations.”
“Our growth rate has outpaced the growth rate of all equity REITs by more than 400 basis points over the last seven years, and has been more than double the rate of earnings per share growth for the S&P 500 over the same time period,” Simon added.
As for occupancy at its malls, the rate stood at 95.6 percent by year’s-end, Simon said, a slight increase over the third quarter, which stood at 95.3 percent.
Average base rent at Simon properties for the year is also up, by about 3 percent to $53.11 per square foot, and reported retail sales per square foot were up 2.3 percent to an average of $628.
As for the retail bankruptcies that happened throughout the year, Simon admitted they had an affect on occupancy rates, as did seemingly rolling store closures at Sears. Simon gained control of 12 Sears stores during the fourth quarter and has since gained the right to terminate five Sears leases and purchased another two, with plans to redevelop the spaces.
The company has a number of redevelopment projects going on as it shifts part of its portfolio to a focus on entertainment and experiences, like dining and movie theaters, but Simon said “we have a lot to do and a lot of these projects are in the process of being finalized in terms of scope, scale, pricing.” He noted that a “handful” of Sears locations are likely set to begin redevelopment this year.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are to get these spaces back, where the media likes to make it out as the beginning of the end,” Simon said. “We think it’s the rebirth, OK. And I can’t tell you how excited we are to continue to do our varied redevelopments. The biggest issue for us is just managing all the activity.”
Generally, Simon sees things shaping up well in the year ahead. The company projected EPS in the range of $6.90 to $7.02, and funds from operations at $11.90 to $12.02 a share, both based on a growth rate of 6 percent to 7 percent.
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