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Retail Opportunity Investments Corp. Caps a Solid Year

By Steve Symington – Feb 23, 2016 at 8:55PM

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The shopping center REIT ended 2015 with a slew of big acquisitions.

One of Retail Opportunity Investments' 73 grocery-anchored shopping centers. Image source: Retail Opportunity Investments Corp.

Retail Opportunity Investments Corp. (ROIC -2.36%) released fourth-quarter 2015 results Tuesday after the bell, and -- just the way investors in the shopping center REIT like it -- offered little in the way of surprises as it finished a strong 2015. Let's dive in to see what Retail Opportunity Investments accomplished in Q4.

The headline numbers
Quarterly revenue rose 22.9% year over year, to $51.3 million, and translated to net income of $7.5 million, or $0.07 per diluted share. But because ROIC is a REIT, a much better metric for gauging its success is funds from operations, or FFO, which effectively measures the company's cash flow from operations.

Retail Opportunity Investments' fourth-quarter FFO climbed 28.2% year over year, to $25.9 million, and rose 19% on a per-share basis, to $0.25, showing the company's spate of recent acquisitions is continuing to fall to the bottom line. Analysts' consensus estimates called for slightly lower FFO of $0.24 per share, and revenue of just $50 million.

A slew of acquisitions
Meanwhile, Retail Opportunity Investments completed a total of $243.7 million in grocery-anchored shopping-center acquisitions during the fourth quarter, and currently has $63.2 million in grocery-anchored acquisitions under contract so far in the first quarter of 2016. The former brought its total to $479.6 million in grocery-anchored shopping center acquisitions completed in 2015, with five new properties in the fourth quarter, including:

  • Johnson Creek Center, a 100%-leased, 109,0000-square-foot property located in Happy Valley, Oregon, purchased for $32.1 million.
  • Iron Horse Plaza, a 100%-leased, 62,000-square-foot property located in Danville, California, acquired for $44.4 million.
  • Sternco Shopping Center, a 100%-leased, 114,000-square-foot center located in Bellevue, Washington, for $49 million.
  • Four Corner Square, a 94.8% leased, 120,000-square-foot center located in Maple Valley, Washington, for $41.9 million.
  • Warner Plaza, a 87.9% leased, 114,000-square-foot center located in Woodland Hills, California, for $76.3 million.

ROIC's $63.2 million under-contract deal is for a two-property portfolio in Calfornia, including:

  • Magnolia Shopping Center, a 97.7% leased, 116,000-square-foot property in Santa Barbara.
  • Casitas Plaza Shopping Center, a 100% leased, 97,000-square-foot property in Carpinteria, within Santa Barbara County.

It's apparent that Retail Opportunity Investments remains relentless in its efforts to find and purchase attractive new spaces in well-populated areas with relatively high occupancy rates. As of the end of 2015, ROIC owned 73 total shopping centers encompassing 8.6 million square feet, up from 61 shopping centers encompassing 7.3 million square feet this time one year ago.

It also maintained a solid 97.2% portfolio leased rate at the year's end. That's up from 97.1% last quarter, and marks its second consecutive full year above 97%.

Retail Opportunity Investments also continued to demonstrate superior pricing power, achieving an 18.1% increase in same-space comparative base rent. Of the 72 total leases executed in the fourth quarter, Retail Opportunity Investments achieved a 27.3% increase in same-space comparative cash rent from 35 new leases, and a 12.9% increase in base rent from 37 renewed leases. Same-center net operating income rose 5.6% year over year, to $29.5 million.

Keeping in mind that, as a REIT, ROIC must distribute at least 90% of taxable net income to shareholders in the form of dividends, ROIC's board also declared a cash dividend of $0.18 per share earlier today, representing a 5.9% increase compared to its previous dividend.

Looking forward
Finally, ROIC also offered initial expectations for the coming year. For 2016, ROIC estimates FFO will be in the range of $1.00 to $1.04 per diluted share, while net income should be in the range of $38.9 million to $40.45 million, or $0.34 to $0.36 per share. Here again, there were no surprises, as analysts were already predicting 2016 FFO at the midpoint of ROIC's guidance range, at $1.02 per share.

More than anything, this seems to represent a continuation of Retail Opportunity Investments' aggressive efforts to keep gobbling up grocery-anchored shopping centers along the West Coast. As one of its shareholders willing to patiently watch those efforts yield fruit, and let compounding do its work over the long term, it's hard to ask much more of this promising business.

Steve Symington owns shares of Retail Opportunity Investments. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Retail Opportunity Investments. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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