Equity Commonwealth's Property Pare-Down Continues

By Matthew DiLalloMarketsFool.com

Equity Commonwealth's (NYSE: EQC) slow strategic repositioning continued during the first quarter. The real estate investment trust sold three more properties, bringing its portfolio down to just 30 holdings at the end of the quarter. Further, despite reaching its disposition goal several quarters ago, the company continues to jettison properties from its portfolio. While the company still has additional asset sales underway, its plan isn't to stay small forever, with its intention to use its financial firepower to create meaningful value for investors over the long term.

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Equity Commonwealth results: The raw numbers


Q1 2017

Q1 2016

Year-Over-Year Change

Normalized FFO

$29.5 million

$37.3 million


Normalized FFO per share




Data source: Equity Commonwealth. FFO = Funds from operations.

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Image source: Getty Images.

What happened with Equity Commonwealth this quarter?

Earnings continue to drop alongside the property count:

  • Equity Commonwealth sold 32 properties over the past year, which knocked $0.18 per share off FFO during the quarter versus last year. That said, the company partially offset that impact by redeploying the cash proceeds to buy back stock and pay down debt, which, in aggregate, added $0.13 per share back to the bottom line.
  • The company's retained portfolio, which now consists of 28 properties, had same-property leased occupancy of 89% during the quarter, that's down from 91.3% at the end of December and 91.6% in the year-ago period. On a more positive note, the company did sign 331,000 square feet of leases during the quarter, including 264,000 square feet of renewals and 67,000 square feet of new leases. Further, the rental rates on these leases were 21.6% higher compared to the prior rental rates for the same space.
  • The company closed the sale of three properties during the quarter for a gross sales price of $113.1 million as well as selling a vacant land parcel for $0.6 million. Meanwhile, it closed the sale of two more properties for $64.5 million shortly after the quarter ended.
  • The company ended the quarter with nearly $1.9 billion of cash on the balance sheet and less than $1.1 billion of debt. With more money coming in the door from asset sales underway, the company's board authorized a new $150 million share repurchase program to help offset some of the lost income from asset sales.

What management had to say

Speaking on the conference call, CEODavid Helfand pointed out:

Equity Commonwealth continues plodding along on its dual-focused strategy of leasing up space across its retained portfolio and selling properties it no longer wishes to keep. Helfand went on to note:

Looking forward

That said, one thing Helfand made clear on the call was that the company has no intention of staying small. He stated that:

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Matt DiLallo owns shares of Equity Commonwealth. The Motley Fool recommends Equity Commonwealth. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.