CBL reports profits up on stronger leasing

CBL reports profits up on stronger leasing

May 1st, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Hamilton Place mall in Chattanooga is owned by CBL. Staff File Photo

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CBL GUIDANCE

CBL maintained its 2012 FFO guidance of between $1.95 to $2.03 per share.

Higher occupancy and stronger leasing in CBL & Associates Properties Inc.'s shopping centers helped push first-quarter earnings up over a year ago, the company reported Monday.

The Chattanooga-based developer posted first-quarter funds from operations of 49 cents per share, up from 47 cents a year ago. The results also bettered the consensus analyst estimate of 47 cents.

Stephen Lebovitz, CBL's chief executive, said company officials are encouraged by the results.

"Retailers have announced a large number of new-store growth plans, and we are translating this increased demand into further leasing gains," he said in a statement accompanying the release of results after the markets' close.

Katie Reinsmidt, vice president of corporate communications and investor relations, said an improved economy, better job creation and retailers expanding their store base all helped CBL in the quarter.

Even though government figures released Friday showed the economy slowing, she said CBL won't be frustrated by setbacks here and there.

"We all recognize the economy is slowly recovering," Reinsmidt said about the company that holds interest in or manages 157 properties including 89 regional malls and open-air centers.

Ken Perkins, president of industry researcher Retail Metrics, said retailers which cater to more upscale patrons are showing stronger results.

"Since the onset of the recovery from the Great Recession, affluent consumers have made the biggest income gains," he said.

CBL reported revenues in the quarter of $250.6 million. That's lower than the $267.1 million reported a year ago, but above analysts' estimate of $245.9 million.

Occupancy in CBL's portfolio rose to 91.8 percent from 90.3 percent a year ago, the company reported. Average gross rent for leases signed in the quarter grew 7.2 percent, CBL said.

Lebovitz also noted CBL's $109 million investment in two outlet centers, the soon-to-be-developed The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta and its recently opened The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City.

"Our outlet center program greatly enhances opportunities in our regional mall portfolio and provides other benefits including leasing and operating synergies," he said.

Perkins said more operators are moving into that segment of the market. "That's likely to continue," he said.

CBL's shares on the New York Stock Exchange were unchanged Monday at $18.63.