Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CMT Puts Works At Three Malls On Hold

Source : The Business Times, October 22, 2008

Trust's fundamentals strong, rents not likely to bottom out

CAPITAMALL Trust (CMT) yesterday said that it will put upgrading plans for some of its properties on hold because of high construction costs.

The Atrium: CMT's third-quarter distributable income rose 14.2 per cent to $60.8 million, from $53.2 million a year earlier, as contributions kicked in from this new acquisition

Singapore's biggest property trust also said that its third-quarter distributable income rose 14.2 per cent to $60.8 million, from $53.2 million a year earlier, as contributions kicked in from new acquisition The Atrium. Q3 distribution per unit (DPU) rose to 3.64 cents a share, from 3.4 cents a year earlier. Net property income rose 13.1 per cent to $86.9 million, from $76.8 million in Q3 2007.

The earnings were in line with expectations, analysts said. The news pushed CMT shares to their highest level in more than two weeks. The stock rose as much as 16 cents or 7.8 per cent to $2.21 before ending the day at $2.11.

Looking ahead, CMT will be cautious, will review new commitments carefully and will not sacrifice liquidity for new projects, said Lim Beng Chee, chief executive-designate of the trust's manager. For now, enhancement programmes that have not started at three malls - Funan DigitaLife Mall, Tampines Mall and Jurong Entertainment Centre (JEC) - have been put off. Works at JEC were projected to cost about $170 million.

The trust's fundamentals are strong as rents are not expected to bottom out in the next few quarters, said Pua Seck Guan, CMT's outgoing chief executive. So far this year, CMT has renewed 289 leases - which make up 15.4 per cent of total net lettable area - at a 9.3 per cent increase to preceding rental rates. There is also a $12.2 million projected increase in net property income from ongoing asset enhancement works.

Analysts agreed with Mr Pua. Singapore's retail sector remains resilient, as evidenced by CMT's latest results, Macquarie Research Equities analysts said in a note yesterday. 'CMT remains one of our top Singapore Reit (real estate investment trust) picks, with growth from active leasing, asset enhancements and acquisitions,' it said. Citigroup also issued a 'buy' call on CMT, citing its steady income stream.

CMT has already secured refinancing for $187.5 million and $80 million of loans due in December 2008 and May 2009 respectively and is in the midst of negotiating refinancing for $673.7 million due in August 2009. Both the trust and analysts are confident funding will be secured.

'CMT exists within the enlarged CapitaLand group, and the group as a whole is well supported by local and foreign banks,' said UOB Kay Hian analyst Jonathan Koh. Earlier this month, CapitaLand said that with its various listed entities, it has raised more than $5 billion of debt year-to-date. In May this year, the trust raised its target asset size to $9 billion by 2010, from an earlier forecast of $8 billion. CMT agreed in May to buy The Atrium along the Orchard Road shopping belt for $839.8 million, boosting its assets to $7.2 billion at June 30.

Yesterday also marked Mr Pua's last results briefing at CMT's helm. He quit in September to pursue personal interests. His resignation is a 'big loss' and could threaten the group's ability to grow in the longer term by acquiring under-utilised assets, said Citigroup analyst Wendy Koh. 'However, his departure is unlikely to affect the rental income stream from existing portfolio and major asset enhancement pipeline for existing properties,' she added.

Mr Lim acknowledged that Mr Pua has left 'big shoes' to fill, but is confident that the management team can fill them.

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