The kindest way to describe the performance of American Financial Realty Trust
Let's dig through some of the quarterly numbers, then take a look at the postponement and a few of the smaller items mentioned in the earnings release.
As is always the case, some financial gymnastics are required to evaluate American Financial Realty. Some of these gymnastics, such as the sale of non-core properties, make sense, but others do not. For the sake of simplicity, we'll start with funds from operations, or FFO, as defined by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) and used by other office REITs such as Boston Properties
For the quarter, FFO as defined by NAREIT came in at a loss of $0.06 per share, and FFO as defined by American Financial came in at a profit of $0.42 per share. Finally, adjusted FFO, or AFFO, as defined by American Financial was $72.1 million, or $0.53 per share. All the FFO results other than the standard NAREIT results contain property gains and other adjustments. Of these adjustments, the one I have the largest problem with is the large gain from the sale of a 100%-occupied property. The company has routinely said that the sale was a strategic decision. However, including the gain from this sale in any FFO number does not jibe with any comparison to other REITs, and because the property was fully occupied, it seems that at best it is an opportunistic sale of a core property.
The bright spot in the quarter was the company's partnership with Dillon Read to acquire branches from Citizens Bank. American Financial will hold a 25.4% ownership interest in the properties and will receive fee revenues for managing them. This is a new line of business for American Financial, and it will be important to pay attention to the performance of this joint venture, but other REITs have successfully pursued this strategy to enhance profitability.
But the news that is getting the most attention is the postponed earnings call, which comes on the heels of American Financial's announcements that it's looking into strategic alternatives that would unlock shareholder value. Strategic alternatives generally mean selling the company, and the way the shares are performing after the company's initial announcement and the postponement reflect that investors seem to believe a corporate event (another fun term), such as a sale is about to happen.
Because I've written numerous times about this company, I want to disclose that I sold most of my position in American Financial last month. I believe the business model could work, but I don't believe the team in place has been focused on executing that model to its fullest, and I'm not convinced that will change. A buyout and any premium that comes with it would make up for some of the pain of the last year for many shareholders. However, if a buyout doesn't happen, it still doesn't look like this company is making material headway toward generating recurring earnings from its core properties, and that combination wouldn't be good for the share price.
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At the time of publication, Nathan Parmelee still owned some shares in American Financial Realty Trust and will continue to hold shares after publication, in accordance with our disclosure policy. He had no interest in any of the other companies mentioned.