American Realty Capital Properties (NYSE:VER) reported first-quarter earnings on Thursday. But the real story came following the earnings release as newly appointed CEO Glenn Rufrano gave his initial thoughts during ARCP's conference call. Here are three of the most important takeaways.
1. What he is here to do
Rufrano opened by making it clear that he plans to look forward, though this one time he will glance into the past, saying, "ARCP was built through a rapid succession of large portfolio deals and company acquisitions."
In June 2013, ARCP had $2.9 billion in assets. A year later, that number had grown to over $21 billion. This rapid growth, as Rufrano noted, was achieved by acquiring companies and buying massive portfolios of properties -- rather than one property at a time.
Rufrano continued, "Accounting issues, which came to light in October of last year, resulted in a change of senior leadership, credit downgrades, and suspensions of selling agreements with broker-dealers and clearing firms who do business with Cole Capital. He added, "The board has entrusted me to continue to build credibility, and I believe we can take several actions toward those efforts."
He hit the nail on the head. Rufrano is here to bring credibility back to ARCP -- but that is no easy task.
2. Plan to bring back credibility
Rufrano explained, "Credibility for us can be defined as the market's understanding of the company's governance and direction, as well as consistency meeting goals."
This means ARCP needs to be transparent and have the right corporate checks and balances in place so it doesn't get into trouble again. Rufrano said, "We began with the implementation of proper corporate governance, [as well as] adding strong members to the board with appropriate backgrounds." This sounds like a good start.
The company also needs direction. Rufrano noted, "We will establish a business plan to be presented during our second quarter earnings call, expected to be held in early August." A company without a clear mission just floats aimlessly like a ship without sails. However, considering Rufrano will only have been with the company four months in August, I will be looking for broad strokes in his vision for the company's future.
Once the company has its business plan in place, it will need to consistently hit its goals. The easiest way to win investors back is by performing well, and Rufrano understands that.
3. What can be expected
Rufrano gave a sneak peek into what we can expect from the business plan: "This company has never culled its assets ... so that's where we're starting."
As mentioned, ARCP was able to scale quickly by purchasing portfolios of real estate assets. The downside to this approach is that not all the properties inside a portfolio will offer long-term value. Rufrano's plan is to pick through ARCP's 4,647 properties and determine which of those best fits their strategy -- a strategy that will, hopefully, become clearer a few months from now.
Rufrano gave one specific example: "When you look at Red Lobster at 11% of the portfolio, it sticks out." Currently, 11.8% of ARCP's annual rental income comes from properties leased to Red Lobster. As Rufrano indicated, they want to be more diverse. So, it would not be surprising to see ARCP sell some of those properties.
Also, Rufrano said, "Balance sheet management will be very important." Here's the good news, however: "We have no immediate need to have to do anything with the balance sheet, and we have no liquidity issues at all." Basically, the company will be making adjustments to its balance sheet -- paying down debt and so on -- but it's no longer in dire straits.
Is it time to buy?
I believe ARCP's current shareholders should be encouraged. If Rufrano came in and immediately started talking about profitability and growing earrings, it would have been a major turn-off. Instead, he is getting to know the company, focusing on building credibility, and creating a business plan. As a long-term investor, I was hoping to hear exactly that.
With that said, I want to see more of this story play out before I consider buying. If all goes according to plan -- a business plan that I'm eagerly waiting to hear in August -- the company's stock price will inevitably be higher. However, I'm more than willing to trade some potential gains for more clarity on how ARCP plans to build for the future.