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Essex Property (ESS) Beats on FFO in Q1: Will Stock Gain?

Residential real estate investment trust (“REIT”) Essex Property Trust Inc. ESS reported first-quarter 2016 core funds from operations (“FFO”) of $2.68 per share, ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.64.

Core FFO per share also increased 17.0% from the year-ago quarter figure of $2.29. Results were driven by growth in same-property net operating income (“NOI”). We expect the outperformance to lead to stock movement.

Moreover, total revenue of $314.2 million in the quarter beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $313 million and surged 11.1% year over year. The outperformance reflects solid rental and other property revenues.

Quarter in Detail

During the quarter, Essex Property’s same property gross revenues increased 7.3% from the prior-year quarter, while same-store NOI improved 8.8% year over year. The company benefited from the positive momentum in Seattle and Southern California. However, financial occupancies of 96.0% decreased 10 basis points (bps) from the prior-year quarter.

During the first quarter, the company disposed two properties for total sale proceeds of $124.3 million. On the other hand, the company acquired two apartment communities for a total contract price of $148.7 million.

Liquidity

Essex Property exited first-quarter 2016 with cash and cash equivalents of $80.5 million, down from $123.1 million at the end of 2015. As of Apr 25, 2016, the company had $1.025 billion in undrawn capacity on its unsecured credit facilities.

Outlook

Essex Property has reaffirmed its 2016 core FFO guidance range per share of $10.72–$11.12. The company has reiterated its guidance for growth in same-property revenues, operating expenses, and NOI, which it disclosed at the time of its fourth-quarter 2015 earnings release. The Zacks Consensus Estimate currently stands at $10.98.

For second-quarter of 2016, the company expects core FFO per share in a range of $2.61–$2.71. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is currently pegged at $2.72.

Conclusion

With a solid property base and strong management team, we believe Essex Property is capable of efficiently leveraging the attractive market fundamentals. In the West Coast, job growth continues to propel demand for new units. Amid manageable deliveries of new housing in the market, this demand is boosting rental rates.

Essex Property currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Investors interested in the residential REIT industry may also consider stocks like Camden Property Trust CPT, Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc. MAA and Select Income REIT SIR. Each of these stocks has the same rank as Essex Property.

Note: FFO, a widely accepted and reported measure of the performance of REITs, is derived by adding depreciation, amortization and other non-cash expenses to net income.

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MID-AMER APT CM (MAA): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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SELECT INCOME (SIR): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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