IStar Financial 10-K 2007
Documents found in this filing:
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL AND TRANSITION REPORTS PURSUANT TO SECTIONS 13 OR 15(d) OF THE
For the transition period from to
Commission File No. 1-15371
iSTAR FINANCIAL INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Registrants telephone number, including area code: (212) 930-9400
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (i) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding twelve months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports); and (ii) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer or a non-accelerated filer (as defined in Exchange Act Rule 12-b-2). Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer o Non-accelerated filer o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes o No x
As of June 30, 2006 the aggregate market value of the common stock, $0.001 par value per share of iStar Financial Inc. (Common Stock), held by non-affiliates (1) of the registrant was approximately $4.08 billion, based upon the closing price of $37.75 on the New York Stock Exchange composite tape on such date.
As of January 31, 2007, there were 126,701,213 shares of Common Stock outstanding.
(1) For purposes of this Annual Report only, includes all outstanding Common Stock other than Common Stock held directly by the registrants directors and executive officers.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
1. Portions of the registrants definitive proxy statement for the registrants 2007 Annual Meeting, to be filed within 120 days after the close of the registrants fiscal year, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, which involve certain risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements are included with respect to, among other things, iStar Financial Inc.s (the Companys) current business plan, business strategy and portfolio management. The Companys actual results or outcomes may differ materially from those anticipated. Important factors that the Company believes might cause such differences are discussed in the cautionary statements presented under the caption Risk Factors in Item 1a of this Form 10-K or otherwise accompany the forward-looking statements contained in this Form 10-K. In assessing all forward-looking statements, readers are urged to read carefully all cautionary statements contained in this Form 10-K.
iStar Financial Inc. (the Company) is a leading publicly-traded finance company focused on the commercial real estate industry. The Company provides custom-tailored financing to high-end private and corporate owners of real estate, including senior and mezzanine real estate debt, senior and mezzanine corporate capital, corporate net lease financing and equity. The Company, which is taxed as a real estate investment trust (REIT), seeks to deliver strong dividends and superior risk-adjusted returns on equity to shareholders by providing innovative and value added financing solutions to its customers. The Companys two primary lines of business are lending and corporate tenant leasing.
The lending business is primarily comprised of senior and mezzanine real estate loans that typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million and have maturities generally ranging from three to ten years. These loans may be either fixed rate (based on the U.S. Treasury rate plus a spread) or variable rate (based on LIBOR plus a spread) and are structured to meet the specific financing needs of the borrowers. The Company also provides senior and mezzanine capital to corporations, particularly those engaged in real estate or real estate related businesses. These financings may be either secured or unsecured, typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million and have maturities generally ranging from three to ten years. As part of the lending business, the Company also acquires whole loans and loan participations which present attractive risk-reward opportunities.
The Companys corporate tenant leasing business provides capital to corporations and other owners who control facilities leased to single creditworthy customers. The Companys net leased assets are generally mission critical headquarters or distribution facilities that are subject to long-term leases with public companies, many of which are rated corporate credits, and many of which provide for most expenses at the facility to be paid by the corporate customer on a triple net lease basis. Corporate tenant lease, or CTL, transactions have initial terms generally ranging from 15 to 20 years and typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million.
The Company began its business in 1993 through private investment funds formed to capitalize on inefficiencies in the real estate finance market. In March 1998, these funds contributed their assets to the Companys predecessor in exchange for a controlling interest in that company. The Company later acquired its former external advisor in exchange for shares of the Companys common stock (Common Stock) and converted its organizational form to a Maryland corporation. As part of the conversion to a Maryland corporation, the Company replaced its former dual class common share structure with a single class of Common Stock. The Companys Common Stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on November 4, 1999. Prior to this date, the Companys Common Stock was traded on the American Stock Exchange. Since that time, the Company has grown through the origination of new lending and leasing
transactions, as well as through corporate acquisitions, including the acquisition in 1999 of TriNet Corporate Realty Trust, Inc. (TriNet), the acquisition in 2005 of Falcon Financial Investment Trust and the acquisition in 2005 of a significant non-controlling interest in Oak Hill Advisors LP and affiliates.
The Companys investment strategy targets specific sectors of the real estate and corporate credit markets in which it believes it can deliver innovative, custom-tailored and flexible financial solutions to its customers, thereby differentiating its financial products from those offered by other capital providers.
The Company has implemented its investment strategy by:
· Focusing on the origination of large, structured mortgage, corporate and lease financings where customers require flexible financial solutions and one-call responsiveness post-closing.
· Avoiding commodity businesses in which there is significant direct competition from other providers of capital such as conduit lending and investments in commercial or residential mortgage-backed securities.
· Developing direct relationships with borrowers and corporate customers as opposed to sourcing transactions solely through intermediaries.
· Adding value beyond simply providing capital by offering borrowers and corporate customers specific lending expertise, flexibility, certainty of closing and continuing relationships beyond the closing of a particular financing transaction.
· Taking advantage of market anomalies in the real estate financing markets when the Company believes credit is mispriced by other providers of capital, such as the spread between lease yields and the yields on corporate customers underlying credit obligations.
The Company seeks to invest in a mix of portfolio financing transactions to create asset diversification and single-asset financings of properties with strong, long-term competitive market positions. The Companys credit process focuses on:
· Building diversification by asset type, property type, obligor, loan/lease maturity and geography.
· Financing commercial real estate assets in major metropolitan markets.
· Underwriting assets using conservative assumptions regarding collateral value and future property performance.
· Evaluating relative risk adjusted returns across multiple investment markets.
· Focusing on replacement costs as the long-term determinant of real estate values.
· Stress testing potential investments for adverse economic and real estate market conditions.
The Company seeks to maintain an investment portfolio which is diversified by asset type, underlying property type and geography. As of December 31, 2006, based on current gross carrying values, the Companys total investment portfolio has the following characteristics:
Since the Companys inception, substantially all of its investments have been in assets and with customers based in the United States and the Company has conducted its operations exclusively from the United States. In the first quarter of 2006, the Company opened a subsidiary in London, England. As of December 31, 2006 the Company had four employees working in London. The Company will use its London office to source investment opportunities abroad, primarily in Europe; however, the Company does not expect that non-U.S. investments will represent a material portion of its assets over the next twelve months.
The Company discusses and analyzes investment opportunities during regular weekly meetings which are attended by all of its investment professionals, as well as representatives from its legal, risk management and capital markets areas. The Company has developed a process for screening potential investments called the Six Point Methodologysm. Through this process the Company evaluates an investment opportunity prior to beginning its formal due diligence process by: (1) evaluating the source of the opportunity; (2) evaluating the quality of the collateral or corporate credit, as well as its market or industry dynamics; (3) evaluating the equity or corporate sponsor; (4) determining whether it can implement an appropriate legal and financial structure for the transaction given its risk profile; (5) performing an alternative investment test; and (6) evaluating the liquidity of the investment and its ability to match fund the asset.
The Company has an intensive underwriting process in place for all potential investments. This process provides for comprehensive feedback and review by all disciplines within the Company, including investments, credit, risk management, legal/structuring and capital markets. Participation is encouraged from all professionals throughout the entire origination process, from the initial consideration of the opportunity, through the Six Point Methodologysm and into the preparation and distribution of a comprehensive memorandum for the Companys internal and/or Board of Directors investment committees.
Any commitment to make an investment of $25 million or less in any transaction or series of related transactions requires the approval of the Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel. Any commitment in an amount in excess of $25 million but not more than $75 million requires the further approval of the Companys internal investment committee, consisting of senior management representatives from all of the Companys key disciplines. Any commitment in an amount in excess of $75 million but not more than $150 million requires the further approval of the Investment Committee of the Board of Directors. Any commitment in an amount in excess of $150 million, and any strategic investment such as a corporate merger or acquisition or material transaction involving the Companys entry into a new line of business, requires the approval of the full Board of Directors.
The Company has access to a wide range of debt and equity capital resources to finance its investment and growth strategies. At December 31, 2006, the Company had over $2.97 billion of tangible book equity capital and a total capitalization of approximately $14.4 billion, consisting of market equity, book debt and preferred equity. The Company believes that its size and track record are competitive advantages in obtaining attractive financing for its businesses.
The Company seeks to maximize risk-adjusted returns on equity and financial flexibility by accessing a variety of public and private debt and equity capital sources. While the Company believes that it is important to maintain diverse sources of funding, in 2003, it began to emphasize unsecured funding sources of debt, such as long-term unsecured corporate debt. The Company believes that unsecured debt is more cost-effective, flexible and efficient than secured debt. The Companys current sources of debt capital include:
· Long-term, unsecured corporate debt.
· A combined $2.70 billion of maximum committed capacity under its unsecured and secured revolving credit facilities at year end.
· Individual mortgages secured by certain of the Companys assets.
The Companys business model is premised on significantly lower leverage than many other commercial finance companies. In this regard, the Company seeks to:
· Maintain a prudent corporate leverage level based upon the Companys mix of business and appropriate leverage levels for each of its primary business lines.
· Maintain a large tangible equity base and conservative credit statistics.
· Match fund assets and liabilities.
A more detailed discussion of the Companys current capital resources is provided in Item 7Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of OperationsLiquidity and Capital Resources.
The Company has variable-rate lending assets and variable-rate debt obligations. These assets and liabilities create a natural hedge against changes in variable interest rates. This means that, as interest rates increase, the Company earns more on its variable-rate lending assets and pays more on its variable-rate debt obligations and, conversely, as interest rates decrease, the Company earns less on its variable-rate lending assets and pays less on its variable-rate debt obligations. When the Companys variable-rate debt obligations exceed its variable-rate lending assets, the Company utilizes derivative instruments to limit the impact of changing interest rates on its net income. The Companys policy requires that we manage our fixed/floating rate exposure such that a 100 basis point move in short term interest rates would have no more than a 2.5% impact on its quarterly adjusted earnings. The Company does not use derivative instruments for speculative purposes. The derivative instruments the Company uses are typically in the form of interest rate swaps and interest rate caps. Interest rate swaps effectively change variable-rate debt obligations to fixed-rate debt obligations. In addition, when appropriate the Company enters into interest rate swaps that convert fixed-rate debt to variable rate in order to mitigate the risk of changes in fair value of the fixed-rate debt obligations. Interest rate caps effectively limit the maximum interest rate on variable-rate debt obligations.
Developing an effective strategy for dealing with movements in interest rates is complex and no strategy can completely insulate the Company from risks associated with such fluctuations. There can be no assurance that the Companys hedging activities will have the desired beneficial impact on its results of operations or financial condition.
We also seek to match-fund our foreign denominated assets so that changes in foreign exchange rates or forward curves will have a minimal impact on earnings. Foreign denominated assets and liabilities are presented in our financial statements in US dollars at current exchange rates each reporting period with changes flowing through earnings. Matched assets and liabilities in the same currency are a natural hedge against currency fluctuations. For investments denominated in currencies other than British pounds, Canadian dollars and euros, we primarily use forward contracts to hedge our exposure to foreign exchange risk.
The primary risks from the Companys use of derivative instruments is the risk that a counterparty to a hedging arrangement could default on its obligation and the risk that the Company may have to pay certain costs, such as transaction fees or breakage costs, if a hedging arrangement is terminated by the counterparty. As a matter of policy, the Company enters into hedging arrangements with counterparties that are large, creditworthy financial institutions typically rated at least A/A2 by Standard & Poors (S&P) and Moodys Investors Service (Moodys), respectively. The Companys hedging strategy is monitored by its Audit Committee on behalf of its Board of Directors and may be changed by the Board of Directors without shareholder approval.
A more detailed discussion of the Companys hedging policy is provided in Item 7Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Conditions and Results of OperationsLiquidity and Capital Resources.
The Company primarily provides structured financing to high-end private and corporate owners of real estate, including senior and mezzanine real estate debt and senior and mezzanine corporate capital.
As of December 31, 2006, the Companys loan portfolio is comprised of:
As more fully discussed in Note 3 to the Companys Consolidated Financial Statements, the Company continually monitors borrower performance and completes a detailed, loan-by-loan formal credit review on a quarterly basis. After having originated or acquired approximately $23.0 billion of investment transactions over its 13 year history through December 31, 2006, the Company and its private investment fund predecessors have experienced minimal actual losses on their lending investments.
Despite the Companys historical track record of having minimal credit losses and loans on non-accrual status, the Company considers it prudent to reflect reserves for loan losses on a portfolio basis based upon the Companys assessment of general market conditions, the Companys internal risk management policies and credit risk rating system, industry loss experience, the Companys assessment of the likelihood of delinquencies or defaults and the value of the collateral underlying its investments. Accordingly, since its first full quarter operating its current business as a public company (the quarter ended June 30, 1998), management has reflected quarterly provisions for loan losses in its operating results.
As of December 31, 2006, the Companys loan portfolio has the following characteristics:
(1) Where Current Carrying Value differs from Current Principal Balance Outstanding, the difference represents unamortized amount of acquired premiums, discounts or deferred loan fees.
(2) All variable-rate loans assume a 30-day LIBOR rate of 5.32% (the 30-day LIBOR rate at December 31, 2006). As of December 31, 2006, nine loans with a combined carrying value of $229.9 million have a stated accrual rate that exceeds the stated pay rate. The weighted average stated pay rate for First mortgages / Senior loans, Mezzanine / Subordinated debt, and the total loan portfolio is 9.23%, 8.30% and 9.03%, respectively.
(3) Weighted average ratios of first and last dollar current loan carrying value to underlying collateral value using third-party appraisal or the Companys internal valuation.
Summary of Interest Characteristics
As more fully discussed in Item 7Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of OperationsLiquidity and Capital Resources as well as in Item 7aQuantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk, the Company utilizes certain interest rate risk management techniques, including both asset/liability matching and certain other hedging techniques, in order to mitigate the Companys exposure to interest rate risks.
As of December 31, 2006, the Companys loan portfolio has the following interest rate characteristics:
Summary of Prepayment Terms
The Company is exposed to risks of prepayment on its loan assets, and generally seeks to protect itself from such risks by structuring its loans with prepayment restrictions and/or penalties.
As of December 31, 2006, the Companys loan portfolio has the following call protection characteristics:
(1) For the purpose of this table, the Company has assumed a substantial lock-out to mean at least three years.
Summary of Lending Business Maturities
As of December 31, 2006, the Companys loan portfolio has the following maturity characteristics:
The Company pursues the origination of CTL transactions by structuring purchase/leasebacks and by acquiring facilities subject to existing long-term net leases. In a typical purchase/leaseback transaction, the Company purchases a corporations facility and leases it back to that corporation subject to a long-term net lease. This structure allows the corporate customer to reinvest the proceeds from the sale of its facilities into its core business, while the Company capitalizes on its structured financing expertise.
The Companys net leased assets are generally mission-critical headquarters or distribution facilities that are subject to long-term leases with public companies, many of which are rated corporate credits and many of which provide for most expenses at the facility to be paid by the corporate customer on a triple net lease basis. CTL transactions have initial terms generally ranging from 15 to 20 years and typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million.
The Company generally intends to hold its CTL assets for long-term investment. However, subject to certain tax restrictions, the Company may dispose of an asset if it deems the disposition to be in the Companys best interests and may either reinvest the disposition proceeds, use the proceeds to reduce debt, or distribute the proceeds to shareholders.
The Company typically seeks general-purpose real estate with residual values that represent a discount to current market values and replacement costs. Under a typical net lease agreement, the corporate customer agrees to pay a base monthly operating lease payment and all facility operating expenses (including taxes, maintenance and insurance).
The Company generally seeks corporate customers with the following characteristics:
· Established companies with stable core businesses or market leaders in growing industries.
· Investment-grade credit strength or appropriate credit enhancements if corporate credit strength is not sufficient on a stand-alone basis.
· Commitments to the facilities as mission-critical assets to their on-going businesses.
As of December 31, 2006, the Company had 126 customers operating in more than 22 major industry sectors, including automotive, finance, healthcare, recreation, technology and communications. The majority of these customers are well-recognized national and international organizations, such as Federal Express, IBM, Nike, Nokia, Verizon and the U.S. Government.
As of December 31, 2006, the Companys CTL portfolio has the following tenant credit characteristics:
(1) A customers credit rating is considered Investment Grade if the tenant or its guarantor has a published senior unsecured credit rating of Baa3/BBB- or above by one or more of the three national rating agencies.
(2) A customers credit rating is considered Implied Investment Grade if it is 100% owned by an investment-grade parent or it has no published ratings, but has credit characteristics that the Company believes warrant an investment grade senior unsecured credit rating. Examples at December 31, 2006 include Volkswagen of America, Inc. and Google, Inc.
(3) Reflects annualized GAAP operating lease income for leases in-place at December 31, 2006.
Risk Management Strategies. The Company believes that diligent risk management of its CTL assets is an essential component of its long-term strategy. There are several ways to optimize the performance and maximize the value of CTL assets. The Company monitors its portfolio for changes that could affect the performance of the markets, credits and industries in which it has invested. As part of this monitoring, the Companys risk management group reviews market, customer and industry data and frequently inspects its facilities. In addition, the Company attempts to develop strong relationships with its large corporate customers, which provide a source of information concerning the customers facilities needs. These relationships allow the Company to be proactive in obtaining early lease renewals and in conducting early marketing of assets where the customer has decided not to renew.
As of December 31, 2006, the Company owned 380 office and industrial, entertainment, medical and retail facilities principally subject to net leases to 125 customers, comprising 34.4 million square feet in 38 states. The Company also has a portfolio of 17 hotels under a long-term master lease with a single customer. Information regarding the Companys CTL assets as of December 31, 2006 is set forth below:
(1) Reflects annualized GAAP operating lease income for leases in-place at December 31, 2006.
(2) Reflects annualized GAAP operating lease income for leases in-place at December 31, 2006 as a percentage of annualized total revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.
As of December 31, 2006, lease expirations on the Companys CTL assets, including facilities owned by the Companys joint ventures, are as follows:
(1) Reflects annualized GAAP operating lease income for leases in-place at December 31, 2006.
(2) Reflects annualized GAAP operating lease income for leases in-place at December 31, 2006 as a percentage of annualized total revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.
The Companys investment, financing and conflicts of interests policies are managed under the ultimate supervision of the Companys Board of Directors. The Board of Directors can amend, revise or eliminate these policies at any time without a vote of shareholders. At all times, the Company intends to make investments in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code) for the Company to qualify as a REIT.
The Company does not have any prescribed allocation among investments or product lines. Instead, the Company focuses on corporate and real estate credit underwriting to develop an in-depth analysis of the risk/reward ratios in determining the pricing and advisability of each particular transaction.
The Company believes that it is not, and intends to conduct its operations so as not to become, regulated as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. The Investment Company Act generally exempts entities that are primarily engaged in purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate (collectively, Qualifying Interests). The Company intends to rely on current interpretations of the Securities and Exchange Commission in an effort to qualify for this exemption. Based on these interpretations, the Company, among other things, must maintain at least 55% of its assets in Qualifying Interests and at least 25% of its assets in real estate-related assets (subject to reduction to the extent the Company invests more than 55% of its assets in Qualifying Interests). Generally, the Companys senior mortgages, CTL assets and certain of its subordinated mortgages constitute Qualifying Interests. Subject to the limitations on ownership of certain types of assets and the gross income tests imposed by the Code, the Company also may invest in the securities of other REITs,
other entities engaged in real estate activities or other issuers, including for the purpose of exercising control over such entities.
The Company operates in a highly competitive market. See Item 1a Risk Factors: We compete with a variety of financing sources for our customers, for a discussion of how we may be affected by competition.
The operations of the Company are subject, in certain instances, to supervision and regulation by state and federal governmental authorities and may be subject to various laws and judicial and administrative decisions imposing various requirements and restrictions, which, among other things: (1) regulate credit granting activities; (2) establish maximum interest rates, finance charges and other charges; (3) require disclosures to customers; (4) govern secured transactions; and (5) set collection, foreclosure, repossession and claims-handling procedures and other trade practices. Although most states do not regulate commercial finance, certain states impose limitations on interest rates and other charges and on certain collection practices and creditor remedies and require licensing of lenders and financiers and adequate disclosure of certain contract terms. The Company is also required to comply with certain provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that are applicable to commercial loans.
In the judgment of management, existing statutes and regulations have not had a material adverse effect on the business conducted by the Company. However, it is not possible to forecast the nature of future legislation, regulations, judicial decisions, orders or interpretations, nor their impact upon the future business, financial condition or results of operations or prospects of the Company.
The Company has elected and expects to continue to make an election to be taxed as a REIT under Section 856 through 860 of the Code. As a REIT, the Company must currently distribute, at a minimum, an amount equal to 90% of its taxable income. In addition, the Company must distribute 100% of its taxable income to avoid paying corporate federal income taxes. REITs are also subject to a number of organizational and operational requirements in order to elect and maintain REIT status. These requirements include specific share ownership tests and assets and gross income composition tests. If the Company fails to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year, the Company will be subject to federal income tax (including any applicable alternative minimum tax) on its taxable income at regular corporate tax rates. Even if the Company qualifies for taxation as a REIT, the Company may be subject to state and local income taxes and to federal income tax and excise tax on its undistributed income.
The American Jobs Creation Act
The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (the Act) was enacted on October 22, 2004. The Act modifies the manner in which the Company applies the gross income and asset test requirements under the Code. With respect to the asset tests, the Act expands the types of securities that qualify as straight debt for purposes of the 10% value limitation. The Act also clarifies that certain types of debt instruments, including loans to individuals or estates and securities of a REIT, are not securities for purposes of the 10% value limitation. With respect to the gross income tests, the Act provides that for the Companys taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2005, except to the extent provided by Treasury regulations, its income from certain hedging transactions that are clearly identified as hedges under Section 1221 of the Code, including gain from the sale or disposition of such a transaction, will be excluded from gross income for purposes of the 95% gross income test, to the extent the transaction hedges any indebtedness incurred or to be incurred by the trust to acquire or carry real estate.
The Act also sets forth rules that permit a REIT to avoid disqualification for de minimis failures (as defined in the Act) to satisfy the 5% and 10% value limitations under the asset tests if the REIT either
disposes of the assets within six months after the last day of the quarter in which the REIT identifies the failure (or such other time period prescribed by the Treasury), or otherwise meets the requirements of such asset tests by the end of such time period. In addition, if a REIT fails to meet any of the asset test requirements for a particular quarter, and the de minimis exception described above does not apply, the REIT may cure such failure if the failure was due to reasonable cause and not to willful neglect, the REIT identifies such failure to the IRS and disposes of the assets that caused the failure within six months after the last day of the quarter in which the identification occurred, and the REIT pays a tax with respect to the failure equal to the greater of: (i) $50,000; or (ii) an amount determined (pursuant to Treasury regulations) by multiplying the highest rate of tax for corporations under Section 11 of the Code, by the net income generated by the assets for the period beginning on the first date of the failure and ending on the date the REIT has disposed of the assets (or otherwise satisfies the requirements). In addition to the foregoing, the Act also provides that if a REIT fails to satisfy one or more requirements for REIT qualification, other than by reason of a failure to comply with the provisions of the reasonable cause exception to the gross income tests and the provisions described above with respect to failure to comply with the asset tests, the REIT may retain its REIT qualification if the failures are due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect, and if the REIT pays a penalty of $50,000 for each such failure. The provisions described in this paragraph will only apply to the Companys taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2005.
The Company has adopted a code of business conduct for all of its employees and directors, including the Companys chief executive officer, chief financial officer, other executive officers and personnel. A copy of the Companys code of conduct has been previously filed with the SEC and is incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K as Exhibit 14.0. The code of conduct is also available on the Companys website at www.istarfinancial.com. The Company intends to post on its website material changes to, or waivers from, its code of conduct, if any, within two days of any such event. The Companys code of conduct was originally adopted in February 2000 and was amended in October 2002 to reflect changes in the NYSEs corporate governance guidelines. As of December 31, 2006, there were no waivers or further changes since adoption of the current code of conduct in October 2002.
As of January 31, 2007, the Company had 214 employees and believes its relationships with its employees to be good. The Companys employees are not represented by a collective bargaining agreement.
In addition to this Annual Report, the Company files quarterly and special reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. All documents are filed with the SEC and are available free of charge on the Companys corporate website, which is www.istarfinancial.com. Through the Companys website, the Company makes available free of charge its annual proxy statement, Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those Reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, as soon as reasonably practicable after the Company electronically files such material with, or furnishes it to, the SEC. You may also read and copy any document filed at the public reference facilities at 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 25049. Please call the SEC at (800) SEC-0330 for further information about the public reference facilities. These documents also may be accessed through the SECs electronic data gathering, analysis and retrieval system (EDGAR) via electronic means, including the SECs homepage on the internet at www.sec.gov.
In addition to the other information in this document, you should consider carefully the following risk factors in evaluating an investment in our securities. Any of these risks or the occurrence of any one or more of the uncertainties described below could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and the performance of our business. For purposes of these risk factors, the terms we, our and us refer to the Company and its consolidated subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.
We may suffer a loss if a borrower defaults on a non-recourse loan or on a loan that is not secured by underlying real estate.
In the event of a default by a borrower on a non-recourse loan, we will only have recourse to the real estate-related assets collateralizing the loan. For this purpose, we consider loans made to special purpose entities formed solely for the purpose of holding and financing particular assets to be non-recourse loans. If the underlying asset value is below the loan amount, we will suffer a loss. Conversely, we sometimes make loan investments that are unsecured or are secured by equity interests in the borrowing entities. These loans are subject to the risk that other lenders may be directly secured by the real estate assets of the borrower. In the event of a default, those collateralized lenders would have priority over us with respect to the proceeds of a sale of the underlying real estate.
In cases described above, we may lack control over the underlying asset collateralizing our loan or the underlying assets of the borrower prior to a default, and as a result, their value may be reduced by acts or omissions by owners or managers of the assets. As of December 31, 2006, 84% of our loans were non-recourse based upon the gross carrying value of our loan assets, and 11% of our total investments, based on gross carrying values of our total investments, consisted of loans that are unsecured or secured by equity interests in the borrowing entity.
We may suffer a loss if a borrower or guarantor defaults on recourse obligations under our loans.
We sometimes obtain individual or corporate guarantees from borrowers or their affiliates, which guarantees are not secured. In cases where guarantees are not fully or partially secured, we typically rely on financial covenants from borrowers and guarantors which are designed to require the borrower or guarantor to maintain certain levels of creditworthiness. Where we do not have recourse to specific collateral pledged to satisfy such guarantees or recourse loans, we will only have recourse as an unsecured creditor to the general assets of the borrower or guarantor, some or all of which may be pledged to satisfy other lenders. There can be no assurance that a borrower or guarantor will comply with its financial covenants, or that sufficient assets will be available to pay amounts owed to us under our loans and guarantees. As a result of these factors, we may suffer losses which could have a material adverse affect on our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
We may suffer a loss in the event of a default or bankruptcy of a borrower, particularly in cases where the borrower has incurred debt that is senior to our loan.
If a borrower defaults on our loan but does not have sufficient assets to satisfy our loan, we may suffer a loss of principal or interest. In the event of a borrower bankruptcy, we may not have full recourse to the assets of the borrower, or the assets of the borrower may not be sufficient to satisfy our loan. In addition, certain of our loans are subordinate to other debt of the borrower. If a borrower defaults on our loan or on debt senior to our loan, or in the event of a borrower bankruptcy, our loan will be satisfied only after the senior debt. Where debt senior to our loan exists, the presence of intercreditor arrangements may limit our ability to amend our loan documents, assign our loans, accept prepayments, exercise our remedies (through standstill periods) and control decisions made in bankruptcy proceedings relating to borrowers. Bankruptcy and borrower litigation can significantly increase the time needed for us to acquire underlying
collateral in the event of a default, during which time the collateral may decline in value. In addition, there are significant costs and delays associated with the foreclosure process.
Our reserves for losses may prove inadequate, which could have a material adverse effect on us.
We maintain and regularly evaluate financial reserves to protect against potential future losses. While we have asset-specific credit protection in many of our loans, including cash reserve accounts, cash deposits and letters of credit, such protections may not be sufficient to protect against all losses and such protections relate only to specific assets and may not be used to satisfy losses on other assets. As of December 31, 2006, accumulated loan loss reserves and other asset-specific credit protection represented an aggregate of 7% of the gross book value of our qualifying loans. We cannot be certain that our reserves will be adequate over time to protect against potential future losses because of unanticipated adverse changes in the economy or events adversely affecting specific assets, borrowers, industries in which our borrowers operate or markets in which our borrowers or their properties are located. If our reserves for credit losses prove inadequate we could suffer losses which could have a material adverse affect on our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
We are subject to the risk that provisions of our loan agreements may be unenforceable.
Our rights and obligations with respect to our loans are governed by written loan agreements and related documentation. It is possible that a court could determine that one or more provisions of a loan agreement are unenforceable, such as a loan prepayment provision or the provisions governing our security interest in the underlying collateral. If this were to happen with respect to a material asset or group of assets we could be adversely affected.
We are subject to the risks associated with loan participations, such as less than full control rights.
Some of our assets are participating interests in loans in which we share the rights, obligations and benefits of the loan with other participating lenders. We may need the consent of these parties to exercise our rights under such loans, including rights with respect to amendment of loan documentation, enforcement proceedings in the event of default and the institution of, and control over, foreclosure proceedings. Similarly, a majority of the participants may be able to take actions to which we object but to which we will be bound if our participation interest represents a minority interest. We may be adversely affected by this lack of full control.
We are subject to risks associated with construction lending, such as cost over-runs and delays in completion.
Our loan assets include loans made to developers to construct prospective projects. The primary risks to us of construction loans are the potential for cost over-runs, the developers failing to meet a project delivery schedule and the inability of a borrower to sell or refinance the project at completion and repay our loan. These risks could cause us to have to fund more money than we originally anticipated in order to complete the project. We may also suffer losses on our loans if the borrower is unable to sell the project or refinance our loan.
Prepayments of our loans, particularly during periods of low interest rates, may reduce our recurring income and we also may not receive prepayment penalties.
Borrowers may seek to prepay our loans, particularly during periods when interest rates are low. If loans repay before their maturity, we may not be able to reinvest the proceeds quickly or we may be forced to reinvest the proceeds in lower-yielding assets. Accordingly, prepayments of our assets may reduce the amount of our recurring income and could adversely affect our financial performance. Many, but not all, of our loans provide that the borrower must pay us a prepayment penalty if the loan is repaid before a specified date. This is often referred to as a lock-out period. While prepayment penalties provide us with financial compensation, they represent one-time payments as opposed to recurring income. After the
end of the lock-out period, the borrower may prepay the loan without penalty prior to its maturity. As of December 31, 2006, 54% of our lending portfolio consisted of loans open to prepayment without penalty.
Increases in interest rates during the term of a loan may adversely impact a borrowers ability to repay a loan at maturity or to prepay a loan.
If interest rates increase during the term of our loan, a borrower may not be able to obtain the necessary funds to repay our loan at maturity through refinancing. Borrowers may also not be able to obtain refinancing proceeds that would enable them to prepay our loans. Increasing interest rates may hinder a borrowers ability to refinance our loan because the borrower or the underlying property cannot satisfy the debt service coverage requirements necessary to obtain new financing or because the value of the property has decreased. If a borrower is unable to repay our loan at maturity, we could suffer a loss. If borrowers prepay fewer loans during periods of rising interest rates, we will not be able to reinvest prepayment proceeds in assets with higher interest rates. As a result, our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends could be materially adversely affected.
We may experience losses if the creditworthiness of our tenants deteriorates and they are unable to meet their obligations under our leases.
We own the properties leased to the tenants of our CTL assets and we receive rents from the tenants during the terms of our leases. A tenants ability to pay rent is determined by the creditworthiness of the tenant. If a tenants credit deteriorates, the tenant may default on its obligations under our lease and the tenant may also become bankrupt. The bankruptcy or insolvency of our tenants or other failure to pay is likely to adversely affect the income produced by our CTL assets. If a tenant defaults, we may experience delays and incur substantial costs in enforcing our rights as landlord. If a tenant files for bankruptcy, we may not be able to evict the tenant solely because of such bankruptcy or failure to pay. A court, however, may authorize a tenant to reject and terminate its lease with us. In such a case, our claim against the tenant for unpaid, future rent would be subject to a statutory cap that might be substantially less than the remaining rent owed under the lease. In addition, certain amounts paid to us within 90 days prior to the tenants bankruptcy filing could be required to be returned to the tenants bankruptcy estate. In any event, it is highly unlikely that a bankrupt or insolvent tenant would pay in full amounts it owes us under a lease. In other circumstances, where a tenants financial condition has become impaired, we may agree to partially or wholly terminate the lease in advance of the termination date in consideration for a lease termination fee that is likely less than the agreed rental amount. Without regard to the manner in which the lease termination occurs, we are likely to incur additional costs in the form of tenant improvements and leasing commissions in our efforts to lease the space to a new tenant. In any of the foregoing circumstances, our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends could be materially adversely affected.
Lease expirations, lease defaults and lease terminations may adversely affect our revenue.
Lease expirations, lease defaults and lease terminations may result in reduced revenues if the lease payments received from replacement corporate tenants are less than the lease payments received from the expiring, defaulting or terminating corporate tenants. In addition, lease defaults by one or more significant corporate tenants, lease terminations by corporate tenants following events of casualty or takings by eminent domain, or the failure of corporate tenants under expiring leases to elect to renew their leases, could cause us to experience long periods of vacancy with no revenue from a facility and to incur substantial capital expenditures in order to obtain replacement corporate tenants.
As of December 31, 2006, the percentage of our revenues (based on annualized GAAP operating lease income for leases in place at December 31, 2006, as a percentage of annualized total revenue for the
quarter ended December 31, 2006) that are subject to expiring leases during each year from 2007 through 2011 is as follows:
Our properties face significant competition which may impede our ability to retain tenants or re-let space when existing tenants vacate.
We face significant competition from other owners, operators and developers of properties, many of which own properties similar to ours in the markets in which we operate. Such competition may affect our ability to attract and retain tenants and reduce the rents we are able to charge. These competing properties may have vacancy rates higher than our properties, which may result in their owners being willing to rent space at lower rental rates than we or in their owners providing greater tenant improvement allowances or other leasing concessions. This combination of circumstances could adversely affect our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
We may need to make significant capital improvements to our corporate facilities in order to remain competitive.
Our corporate facilities may face competition from newer, more updated facilities. In order to remain competitive, we may need to make significant capital improvements to our existing corporate facilities. In addition, in the event we need to re-lease a corporate facility, we may need to make significant tenant improvements, including conversions of single tenant buildings to multi-tenant buildings. The costs of these improvements could adversely affect our financial performance.
Our ownership interests in corporate facilities are illiquid, hindering our ability to mitigate a loss.
Since our ownership interests in corporate facilities are illiquid, we may lack the necessary flexibility to vary our investment strategy promptly to respond to changes in market conditions. In addition, if we have to foreclose on an asset or if we desire to sell it in an effort to recover or mitigate a loss, we may be unable to do so at all, or only at a discount.
Our markets are highly competitive. Our competitors include finance companies, other REITs, commercial banks and thrift institutions, investment banks and hedge funds. Competition from traditional competitors and new market entrants has intensified in recent years due to a strong economy, substantial marketplace liquidity and increasing recognition of the attractiveness of the commercial real estate finance markets. In addition, the rapid expansion of the securitization markets, particularly through collateralized debt obligations or CDOs, has dramatically reduced the difficulty of obtaining access to capital, which is the principal barrier to entry into our markets. This trend has further intensified competition from specialized securitization lenders which offer aggressive pricing terms. Our competitors seek to compete aggressively on the basis of transaction pricing, terms and structure and we may lose market share to the extent we are unwilling to match our competitors pricing, terms and structure in order to maintain our interest margins and/or credit standards. To the extent that we match competitors pricing, terms or structure, we may experience decreased interest margins and/or increased risk of credit losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
Our success depends on our ability to retain our senior management and the other members of our management team and recruit additional qualified personnel. We have added significant personnel in the
most recent fiscal year and we anticipate that it will be necessary for us to add additional professionals as we pursue our growth strategy. However, we may not succeed in recruiting additional personnel or retaining current personnel, as the market for qualified professionals in our industry is extremely competitive and costly. Members of our senior management possess substantial experience and expertise in investing and have significant relationships with our customers and other institutions which are the source of many of our investment opportunities. Therefore, if members of our management join competitors or form competing companies it could result in the loss of investment opportunities, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. Efforts to retain or attract professionals may result in significant additional expenses, which could adversely affect our profitability.
As of December 31, 2006, the average size of our lending investments was $33.1 million and the average size of our CTL investments was $29.6 million. Of our annualized revenues for the quarter ended December 31, 2006, 12% were derived from our five largest loan and CTL customers. No single loan or CTL investment represents more than 3% of our annualized revenues for the fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2006. While our asset base is diversified by product line, asset type, obligor, property type and geographic location, it is possible that if we suffer losses on a portion of our larger assets, our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends could be materially adversely affected.
Our success is dependent upon the general economic conditions in the geographic areas in which a substantial number of our investments are located. Adverse changes in national economic conditions or in the economic conditions of the regions in which we conduct substantial business likely would have an adverse effect on real estate values and, accordingly, our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends business.
In a recession or under other adverse economic conditions, non-earning assets and write-downs are likely to increase as debtors fail to meet their payment obligations. Although we maintain reserves for credit losses and an allowance for doubtful accounts in amounts that we believe are sufficient to provide adequate protection against potential write-downs in our portfolio, these amounts could prove to be insufficient.
A recession or downturn could contribute to a downgrading of our credit ratings. A ratings downgrade likely would increase our funding costs, and could decrease our net investment income, limit our access to the capital markets or result in a decision by the lenders under our existing bank credit facilities not to extend such credit facilities after their expiration. Such results could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
Approximately 23% of the gross carrying value of our assets as of December 31, 2006, were located in the West and Northwest United States, which are high risk geographical areas for earthquakes. In addition, a significant number of our properties are located in New York City and other major urban areas which have, in recent years, been high risk geographical areas for terrorism and threats of terrorism. Future earthquakes or acts of terrorism could adversely impact the demand for, and value of, our assets and could also directly impact the value of our assets through damage, destruction or loss, and could thereafter materially impact the availability or cost of insurance to protect against these events. Any earthquake or terrorist attack, whether or not insured, could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
Although we believe our CTL assets and the properties collateralizing our loan assets are adequately covered by insurance, we cannot predict at this time if we or our borrowers will be able to obtain
appropriate coverage at a reasonable cost in the future, or if we will be able to continue to pass along all of the costs of insurance to our tenants. In response to the uncertainty in the insurance market following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) was enacted in November 2002, which established the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program to mandate that insurance carriers offer insurance covering physical damage from terrorist incidents certified by the U.S. government as foreign terrorist acts. Under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, the federal government shares in the risk of loss associated with certain future terrorist acts. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program was scheduled to expire on December 31, 2005. However, on December 22, 2005, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2005 (the Extension Act) was enacted, which extended the duration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program until December 31, 2007, while expanding the private sector role and reducing the amount of coverage that the U.S. government is required to provide for insured losses under the program. While the underlying structure of TRIA was left intact, the Extension Act makes some adjustments, including increasing the current insurer deductible from 15% of direct earned premiums to 17.5% for 2006, and to 20% of such premiums in 2007. For losses in excess of the deductible, the federal government still reimburses 90% of the insurers loss in 2007. The federal share in the aggregate in any program year may not exceed $100 billion (the insurers will not be liable for any amount that exceeds this cap). Under the Extension Act, losses incurred as a result of an act of terrorism are required to exceed $5.0 million before the program is triggered and compensation is paid under the program, but that amount increases to $50.0 million on April 1, 2006, and to $100.0 million in 2007. As a result, unless we and our borrowers obtain separate coverage for events that do not meet that threshold (which coverage may not be required by the respective loan documents and may not otherwise be obtainable), such events would not be covered. In addition, the recently enacted legislation may subsequently result in increased premiums charged by insurance carriers for terrorism insurance.
As a financial services firm, our business is highly dependent on communications and information systems. Any failure or interruption of our systems could cause delays or other problems in our activities, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, the market prices of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
Under various U.S. federal, state and local environmental laws, ordinances and regulations, a current or previous owner of real estate (including, in certain circumstances, a secured lender that succeeds to ownership or control of a property) may become liable for the costs of removal or remediation of certain hazardous or toxic substances at, on, under or in its property. Those laws typically impose cleanup responsibility and liability without regard to whether the owner or control party knew of or was responsible for the release or presence of such hazardous or toxic substances. The costs of investigation, remediation or removal of those substances may be substantial. The owner or control party of a site may be subject to common law claims by third parties based on damages and costs resulting from environmental contamination emanating from a site. Certain environmental laws also impose liability in connection with the handling of or exposure to asbestos-containing materials, pursuant to which third parties may seek recovery from owners of real properties for personal injuries associated with asbestos-containing materials. Absent succeeding to ownership or control of real property, a secured lender is not likely to be subject to any of these forms of environmental liability. Additionally, under our CTL assets we require our tenants to undertake the obligation for environmental compliance and indemnify us from liability with respect thereto. There can be no assurance that our tenants will have sufficient resources to satisfy their obligations to us.
In recent years we have made strategic investments in complementary businesses, such as financing for the timber and automotive industries, and expect that we may pursue additional strategic investments from time to time in the future. Strategic investments may involve the incurrence of additional debt and contingent liabilities. In addition, we may incur expenses from these investments, or they may require substantial investments of additional capital, before they begin generating anticipated returns. Strategic transactions involve risks, including:
· Difficulties in assimilating the operations, products, technology, information systems and personnel of the acquired business;
· Potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities and the incurrence of additional debt in connection with future acquisitions;
· Diverting managements attention from other business concerns;
· Difficulties in maintaining uniform standards, controls, procedures and policies;
· Entering markets in which we have limited prior experience; and
· Losing key employees or customers of the acquired business.
We generally must distribute at least 90% of our net taxable income to our stockholders to maintain our REIT status. As a result, those earnings will not be available to fund investment activities. We have historically funded our investments by borrowing from financial institutions and raising capital in the public and private capital markets. We expect to continue to fund our investments this way. If we fail to obtain funds from these sources, it could limit our ability to grow, which could have a material adverse effect on the value of our common stock. Our taxable income has historically been lower than the cash flow generated by our business activities, primarily because our taxable income is reduced by non-cash expenses, such as depreciation, depletion and amortization. As a result, our dividend payout ratio as a percentage of our adjusted earnings (see Item 7: Adjusted Earnings) has generally been lower than our payout ratio as a percentage of net taxable income.
Our success is dependent, in part, upon our ability to grow assets through leverage. Our ability to obtain the leverage necessary for execution of our business plan will ultimately depend upon our ability to maintain interest coverage ratios meeting market underwriting standards that will vary according to lenders assessments of our creditworthiness and the terms of the borrowings. As of December 31, 2006, our debt-to-book equity plus accumulated depreciation/depletion and loan loss reserves ratio was 2.3x and our total carrying value of debt obligations outstanding was approximately $7.83 billion. Our charter does not limit the amount of indebtedness which we may incur. Our Board of Directors has overall responsibility for our financing strategy. Stockholder approval is not required for changes to our financing strategy. If our Board of Directors decided to increase our leverage, it could lead to reduced or negative cash flow and reduced liquidity.
The percentage of leverage used will vary depending on our estimate of the stability of our cash flow. To the extent that changes in market conditions cause the cost of such financing to increase relative to the income that can be derived from the assets originated, we may reduce the amount of our leverage.
Leverage creates an opportunity for increased net income, but at the same time creates risks. For example, leveraging magnifies changes in our net worth. We will incur leverage only when there is an expectation that it will enhance returns, although there can be no assurance that our use of leverage will prove to be beneficial. Moreover, there can be no assurance that we will be able to meet our debt service obligations and, to the extent that we cannot, we risk the loss of some or all of our assets or a financial loss if we are required to liquidate assets at a commercially inopportune time.
We and our subsidiaries are parties to agreements and debt instruments that restrict future indebtedness and the payment of dividends, including indirect restrictions (through, for example, covenants requiring the maintenance of specified levels of net worth and earnings to debt service ratios) and direct restrictions. As a result, in the event of a deterioration in our financial condition, these agreements or debt instruments could restrict our ability to pay dividends. Moreover, if we fail to pay dividends as required by the Code whether as a result of restrictive covenants in our debt instruments or otherwise, we may lose our qualification as a REIT. For more information regarding the consequences of loss of REIT qualification, please read the risk factor entitled We May Be Subject to Adverse Consequences if We Fail to Qualify as a REIT.
We have variable rate lending assets and variable rate debt obligations. These assets and liabilities create a natural hedge against changes in variable interest rates. This means that as interest rates increase, we earn more on our variable rate lending assets and pay more on our variable rate debt obligations and, conversely, as interest rates decrease, we earn less on our variable rate lending assets and pay less on our variable rate debt obligations. When our variable rate debt obligations exceed our variable rate lending assets, we utilize derivative instruments to limit the impact of changing interest rates on our net income. We do not use derivative instruments to hedge assets or for speculative purposes. The derivative instruments we use are typically in the form of interest rate swaps and interest rate caps. Interest rate swaps effectively change variable rate debt obligations to fixed rate debt obligations or fixed rate debt obligations to variable rate debt obligations. Interest rate caps effectively limit the maximum interest rate on variable rate debt obligations.
The primary risks from our use of derivative instruments is the risk that a counterparty to a hedging arrangement could default on its obligation and the risk that we may have to pay certain costs, such as transaction fees or breakage costs, if a hedging arrangement is terminated by us. As a matter of policy, we enter into hedging arrangements with counterparties that are large, creditworthy financial institutions typically rated at least A/A2 by S&P and Moodys, respectively. Our hedging strategy is monitored by our Audit Committee on behalf of our Board of Directors and may be changed by the Board of Directors without stockholder approval.
Developing an effective strategy for dealing with movements in interest rates is complex and no strategy can completely insulate us from risks associated with such fluctuations. There can be no assurance that our hedging activities will have the desired beneficial impact on our results of operations or financial condition.
We have investments in the timber industry through our interest in TimberStar Operating Partnership LP. Our total investment in TimberStar represented approximately 3% of our total assets as of December 31, 2006. TimberStar is subject to risks associated with the timber industry, including that:
· The timber industry is cyclical. Demand for wood products is affected primarily by the level of residential construction and industrial uses. Changes in economic conditions, interest rates, demographics and weather can influence the demand for wood products.
· Imports of lumber from abroad, particularly from Canada, compete with U.S. lumber products. Anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on imports of Canadian lumber have not decreased Canadian lumber imports share of the U.S. market. In addition, wood products are subject to increasing competition from a variety of substitute products, including products from non-U.S. markets. These competitive products could adversely affect the pricing of TimberStars products.
· TimberStars ability to harvest timber is subject to a variety of factors, many of which are outside of its control, including weather conditions, growth cycles, environmental regulatory requirements, the availability of loggers and damage caused by fire, insect infestation, drought and natural disasters. As is common in the forest products industry, TimberStar does not maintain insurance coverage with respect to damage to its timberlands.
If TimberStars business is materially adversely affected, we could suffer a loss on our investment.
Our quarterly operating results could fluctuate; therefore, you should not rely on past quarterly results to be indicative of our performance in future quarters. Factors that could cause quarterly operating results to fluctuate include, among others, variations in our investment origination volume, variations in the timing of prepayments, the degree to which we encounter competition in our markets and general economic conditions.
Generally, to maintain our qualification as a REIT under the Code, not more than 50% in value of our outstanding shares of stock may be owned, directly or indirectly, by five or fewer individuals at any time during the last half of our taxable year. The Code defines individuals for purposes of the requirement described in the preceding sentence to include some types of entities. Under our charter, no person may own more than 9.8% of our outstanding shares of stock, with some exceptions. The restrictions on transferability and ownership may delay, deter or prevent a change in control or other transaction that might involve a premium price or otherwise be in the best interest of the security holders.
Our charter authorizes our Board of Directors:
1. To cause us to issue additional authorized but unissued shares of common or preferred stock.
2. To classify or reclassify, in one or more series, any of our unissued preferred shares.
3. To set the preferences, rights and other terms of any classified or reclassified securities that we issue.
Our charter provides that our primary purpose is to invest in a diversified portfolio of debt and debt like interests in real estate and real estate related assets, although it does not set forth specific percentages
of the types of investments we may make. Our Board of Directors determines our investment policies, as well as our financing and conflicts of interest policies. Although the Board of Directors has no present intention to do so, it can amend, revise or eliminate these policies at any time and from time to time at its discretion without a vote of the stockholders. A change in these policies could adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations or the market price of our common stock.
We believe that we currently are not, and we intend to operate our company so that we will not be regulated as, an investment company under the Investment Company Act because we are primarily engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interest in real estate. Specifically, we are required to invest at least 55% of our assets in qualifying real estate assets; (that is, real estate, mortgage loans and other qualifying interests in real estate), and at least an additional 25% of our assets in other real estate-related assets, such as mezzanine loans and unsecured investments in real estate entities, or additional qualifying real estate assets.
We will need to monitor our assets to ensure that we continue to satisfy the percentage tests. Maintaining our exemption from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act limits our ability to invest in assets that otherwise would meet our investment strategies.
If we fail to qualify for this exemption, we could not operate our business efficiently under the regulatory scheme imposed on investment companies under the Investment Company Act and we could be required to restructure our activities. This would have a material adverse effect on our financial performance, the market price of our securities and our ability to pay dividends.
We intend to operate so as to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Our qualification as a REIT will depend on our continuing ability to meet various requirements concerning, among other things, the ownership of our outstanding stock, the nature of our assets, the sources of our income and the amount of our distributions to our stockholders.
If we were to fail to qualify as a REIT for any taxable year, we would not be allowed a deduction for distributions to our stockholders in computing our taxable income and we would be subject to U.S. federal income tax, including any applicable minimum tax, on our taxable income with respect to any such taxable year at regular corporate rates. Unless entitled to relief under certain Code provisions, we also would be disqualified from treatment as a REIT for the four subsequent taxable years following the year during which qualification was lost. As a result, cash available for distribution would be reduced for each of the years involved. Furthermore, it is possible that future economic, market, legal, tax or other considerations may cause the Board of Directors to revoke our REIT election. Because we intend to make investments in foreign real property, we are subject to foreign currency gains and losses. Foreign currency gains are not qualifying income for purposes of the REIT income requirements. To reduce the risk of foreign currency gains adversely affecting our REIT qualification, we may be required to defer the repatriation of cash from foreign jurisdictions or to employ other structures that could affect the timing, character or amount of income we receive from our foreign investments.
To qualify as a REIT, we generally must distribute to our stockholders at least 90% of our net income each year, excluding net capital gains, and we will be subject to regular U.S. federal corporate income taxes to the extent that we distribute less than 100% of our net taxable income each year. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax on the amount, if any, by which distributions paid by us in any
calendar year are less than the sum of 85% of our ordinary income, 95% of our capital gain net income and 100% of our undistributed income from prior years. In order to qualify as a REIT and avoid the payment of income and excise taxes, we may need to borrow funds on a short-term, or possibly long-term, basis to meet the REIT distribution requirements even if the prevailing market conditions are not favorable for these borrowings. These borrowing needs could result from, among other things, a difference in timing between the actual receipt of cash and inclusion of income for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the effect of non-deductible capital expenditures, the creation of reserves or required debt or amortization payments.
The maximum U.S. federal income tax rate for dividends payable by domestic corporations to individual U.S. stockholders is 15% through 2010. Dividends payable by REITs, however, are generally not eligible for the reduced rates. As a result, the more favorable rates applicable to regular corporate dividends could cause stockholders who are individuals to perceive investments in REITs to be relatively less attractive than investments in the stocks of non-REIT corporations that pay dividends, which could adversely affect the value of the stock of REITs, including our common stock.
The rules dealing with U.S. federal income taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department. Changes to tax laws (which changes may have retroactive application) could adversely affect our stockholders or us. It cannot be predicted whether, when, in what forms, or with what effective dates, the tax laws applicable to our stockholders or us, will be changed.
Even if we qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we will be required to pay some U.S. federal, state, local, and foreign taxes on our income and property. In addition, our taxable REIT subsidiaries are fully taxable corporations, and there are limitations on the ability of taxable REIT subsidiaries to make interest payments to affiliated REITs. In addition, we will be subject to a 100% penalty tax to the extent economic arrangements among our tenants, our taxable REIT subsidiaries and us are not comparable to similar arrangements among unrelated parties. We will also be subject to a 100% tax to the extent we derive income from the sale of assets to customers in the ordinary course of business. To the extent that we or our taxable REIT subsidiaries are required to pay U.S. federal, state, local or foreign taxes, we will have less cash available for distribution to stockholders.
Although we do not intend to invest a material portion of our assets in real estate mortgage investment conduits, or REMICs, or taxable mortgage pools, in each case, of which we own or are treated as owning residual interests, we have owned such assets in the past. In the event we were to own REMIC or taxable mortgage pool residual interests, a portion of our income from these assets could be treated as excess inclusion income.
Recently issued IRS guidance indicates that our excess inclusion income will be allocated among our shareholders in proportion to our dividends paid. A shareholders share of our excess inclusion income (i) would not be allowed to be offset by any net operating losses otherwise available to the shareholder, (ii) would be subject to tax as unrelated business taxable income in the hands of most tax-exempt shareholders, and (iii) and would result in the application of U.S. federal income tax withholding at a rate of 30%, without reduction for any otherwise applicable income tax treaty, in the hands of a non-U.S. shareholder.
In addition, the IRS has taken the position that we are subject to tax at the highest U.S. federal corporate income tax rate on our excess inclusion income allocated to disqualified organizations (generally, tax-exempt investors that are not subject to U.S. federal income tax on unrelated business taxable income, including governmental organizations and charitable remainder trusts) that hold our stock in record name. Further, the IRS has taken the position that broker/dealers and nominees holding our stock in street name on behalf of disqualified organizations are subject to U.S. federal income tax at the highest U.S. federal corporate income tax rate on our excess inclusion income allocated to such disqualified organizations. Similarly, a regulated investment company or other pass-through entity may be subject to U.S. federal income tax at the highest U.S. federal corporate income tax rate on our excess inclusion income to the extent such entities are owned by disqualified organizations.
The amount of dividends we distribute to our common stockholders in a given quarter may not correspond to our taxable income for such quarter. Consequently, a portion of the dividends we distribute may be deemed a return of capital for U.S. federal income tax purposes, and will not be taxable but will reduce stockholders basis in its common stock. For the year ended December 31, 2006, the percentage of our dividend payments made to common stockholders that was treated as a return of capital was 14.5%.
The Companys principal executive and administrative offices are located at 1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036. Its telephone number, general facsimile number and web address are (212) 930-9400, (212) 930-9494 and www.istarfinancial.com, respectively. The lease for the Companys primary corporate office space expires in February 2021. The Company also maintains super-regional offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Hartford, Connecticut; and San Francisco, California, as well as regional offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; and Chicago, Illinois; and a subsidiary in London, England.
See Item 1Corporate Tenant Leasing for a discussion of CTL facilities held by the Company for investment purposes and Item 8Schedule IIICorporate Tenant Lease Assets and Accumulated Depreciation for a detailed listing of such facilities.
The Company is not a party to any material litigation or legal proceedings, or to the best of its knowledge, any threatened litigation or legal proceedings which, in the opinion of management, individually or in the aggregate, would have a material adverse effect on its results of operations or financial condition.
There were no matters submitted to a vote of security holders during the fourth quarter of 2006.
The Companys Common Stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol SFI.
The high and low closing prices per share of Common Stock are set forth below for the periods indicated.
On January 31, 2007, the closing sale price of the Common Stock as reported by the NYSE was $50.15. The Company had 3,330 holders of record of Common Stock as of January 31, 2007.
At December 31, 2006, the Company had five series of preferred stock outstanding: 8.000% Series D Preferred Stock, 7.875% Series E Preferred Stock, 7.800% Series F Preferred Stock, 7.650% Series G Preferred Stock and 7.500% Series I Preferred Stock. Each of the Series D, E, F, G and I preferred stock is publicly traded.
The Companys management expects that any taxable income remaining after the distribution of preferred dividends and the regular quarterly or other dividends on its Common Stock will be distributed annually to the holders of the Common Stock on or prior to the date of the first regular quarterly dividend payment date of the following taxable year. The dividend policy with respect to the Common Stock is subject to revision by the Board of Directors. All distributions in excess of dividends on preferred stock or those required for the Company to maintain its REIT status will be made by the Company at the sole discretion of the Board of Directors and will depend on the taxable earnings of the Company, the financial condition of the Company, and such other factors as the Board of Directors deems relevant. The Board of Directors has not established any minimum distribution level. In order to maintain its qualifications as a REIT, the Company intends to pay regular quarterly dividends to its shareholders that, on an annual basis, will represent at least 90% of its taxable income (which may not necessarily equal net income as calculated in accordance with GAAP), determined without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding any net capital gains.
Holders of Common Stock, vested High Performance Units and certain unvested RSUs will be entitled to receive distributions if, as and when the Board of Directors authorizes and declares distributions. However, rights to distributions may be subordinated to the rights of holders of preferred stock, when preferred stock is issued and outstanding. In addition, the Companys unsecured credit facility contains a covenant that limits the Companys ability to pay distributions on its capital stock based upon the Companys adjusted earnings provided however, that it generally permits the Company to pay the minimum amount of distributions necessary to maintain the Companys REIT status. In any liquidation,
dissolution or winding up of the Company, each outstanding share of Common Stock and HPU share equivalents will entitle its holder to a proportionate share of the assets that remain after the Company pays its liabilities and any preferential distributions owed to preferred shareholders.
The following table sets forth the dividends paid or declared by the Company on its Common Stock:
(1) For tax reporting purposes, the 2005 dividends were classified as 65.03% ($1.905) ordinary income, 12.72% ($0.3727) 15% capital gain, 1.17% ($0.0342) 25% Section 1250 capital gain and 21.08% ($0.6176) return of capital for those shareholders who held shares of the Company for the entire year.
(2) For tax reporting purposes, the 2006 dividends were classified as 81.03% ($2.4957) ordinary income, 2.77% ($0.0853) 15% capital gain, 1.75% ($0.0538) 25% Section 1250 capital gain and 14.45% ($0.4452) return of capital for those shareholders who held shares of the Company for the entire year.
The Company declared and paid dividends aggregating $8.0 million, $11.0 million, $7.8 million, $6.1 million, and $9.4 million respectively, on its Series D, E, F, G, and I preferred stock, respectively, for the year ended December 31, 2006. There are no dividend arrearages on any of the preferred shares currently outstanding.
Distributions to shareholders will generally be taxable as ordinary income, although a portion of such dividends may be designated by the Company as capital gain or may constitute a tax-free return of capital. The Company annually furnishes to each of its shareholders a statement setting forth the distributions paid during the preceding year and their characterization as ordinary income, capital gain or return of capital.
The Company intends to continue to declare quarterly distributions on its Common Stock. No assurance, however, can be given as to the amounts or timing of future distributions, as such distributions are subject to the Companys earnings, financial condition, capital requirements, debt covenants and such other factors as the Companys Board of Directors deems relevant. On February 22, 2007, the Company announced that, effective April 1, 2007, its Board of Directors approved an increase in the regular quarterly dividend on its Common Stock for 2007 to $0.825 per share, representing $3.30 per share on an annualized basis.
(1) Stock OptionsAs more fully discussed in Note 12 to the Companys Consolidated Financial Statements, there were approximately 1.1 million stock options outstanding as of December 31, 2006. These 1.1 million options, together with their weighted-average exercise price, have been included in columns (a) and (b), above. The 4.5 million figure in column (c) represents the aggregate amount of stock options, shares of restricted stock awards or other performance awards that could be granted under compensation plans approved by the Companys security holders after giving effect to previously issued awards of stock options, shares of restricted stock and other performance awards (see Note 12 to the Companys Consolidated Financial Statements for a more detailed description of the Companys Long-Term Incentive Plan).
(2) Restricted StockAs of December 31, 2006, the Company has issued 1.4 million shares of restricted stock. The restrictions on 471,172 of such shares relate to the passage of time for vesting periods which have not lapsed, and are thus not included in the Companys outstanding share balance. These shares have been included in column (a), above. The amounts shown in column (a) also include 65,000 common stock equivalents awarded to our non-employee directors in consideration of their service to us as directors. The Company awards 2,500 common stock equivalents to each non-employee director on the date of each annual meeting of shareholders pursuant to the Companys Non-Employee Directors Deferral Plan, which was approved by the Companys shareholders in May 2004. Common stock equivalents represent rights to receive shares of Common Stock, or cash in amount equal to the fair market value of the Common Stock, at the date the Common Stock Equivalents are settled based upon individual elections made by each director. Common stock equivalents have dividend equivalent rights beginning on the date of grant.
(3) High Performance Unit ProgramIn May 2002, the Companys shareholders approved the iStar Financial High Performance Unit Program. The Program is more fully described in the Companys proxy statement dated April 8, 2002 and in Note 12 to the Companys Consolidated Financial Statements. The program entitles the employee participants to receive distributions in the nature of common stock dividends if the total rate of return on the Companys Common Stock exceeds certain performance levels. The first, second and third tranches of the program were completed on December 31, 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively. As a result of the Companys superior performance during the valuation period for all three tranches, the program participants are entitled to share in distributions equivalent to dividends payable on 819,254 shares, 987,149 shares and 1,031,875 shares of the Companys Common Stock, in the aggregate, as and when such dividends are paid by the Company for the 2002, 2003 and 2004 plans, respectively. Such dividend payments for the first tranche began with the first quarter 2003 dividend, for the second tranche began with the first quarter 2004 dividend and those for the third tranche began with the first quarter 2005 dividend and reduced net income allocable to common stockholders when paid. The valuation period for the fourth and fifth tranches of the plan were completed on December 31, 2005 and 2006, respectively, and they did not meet the performance thresholds. As a result, the participants in the 2005 and 2006 plans are not entitled to any future dividend payments and no shares of the Companys Common Stock will be issued in connection with these programs (see Note 12 to the Companys Consolidated Financial Statements for a more detailed description of the Companys High Performance Unit Program).
The following table sets forth selected financial data on a consolidated historical basis for the Company. This information should be read in conjunction with the discussions set forth in Item 7Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. Certain prior year amounts have been reclassified to conform to the 2006 presentation.
(1) General and administrative costs include $11,435, $2,758, $109,676, $3,633 and $17,998 of stock-based compensation expense for the years ended December 31, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002, respectively.
(2) HPU holders are Company employees who purchased high performance common stock units under the Companys High Performance Unit Program.
(3) See Note 13Earnings Per Share on the Companys Consolidated Financial Statements.
(4) For the years ended December 31, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002 net income used to calculate earnings per diluted common share includes joint venture income of $115, $28, $3, $167 and $0, respectively.
(5) The Company generally declares common and preferred dividends in the month subsequent to the end of the quarter.
(6) Adjusted earnings represents net income allocable to common shareholders and HPU holders computed in accordance with GAAP, before depreciation, depletion, amortization, gain from discontinued operations, extraordinary items and cumulative effect of change in accounting principle. (See Item 7Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations for a reconciliation of adjusted earnings to net income).
(7) EBITDA is calculated as net income plus the sum of interest expense, depreciation, depletion and amortization (which includes the interest expense, depreciation, depletion and amortization reclassified to income from discontinued operations).
(1) For the years ended December 31, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002, interest expense includes $0, $0, $190, $337 and $348, respectively, of interest expense reclassified to discontinued operations.
(2) For the years ended December 31, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002, depreciation, depletion and amortization includes $1,858, $2,628, $6,658, $8,002 and $7,927, respectively, of depreciation and amortization reclassified to discontinued operations.
(8) Both adjusted earnings and EBITDA should be examined in conjunction with net income as shown in the Companys Consolidated Statements of Operations. Neither adjusted earnings nor EBITDA should be considered as an alternative to net income (determined in accordance with GAAP) as an indicator of the Companys performance, or to cash flows from operating activities (determined in accordance with GAAP) as a measure of the Companys liquidity, nor is either measure indicative of
funds available to fund the Companys cash needs or available for distribution to shareholders. Rather, adjusted earnings and EBITDA are additional measures the Company uses to analyze how its business is performing. As a commercial finance company that focuses on real estate lending and corporate tenant leasing, the Company records significant depreciation on its real estate assets and amortization of deferred financing costs associated with its borrowings. The Company also records depletion on its timber assets, although depletion amounts are currently not material. It should be noted that the Companys manner of calculating adjusted earnings and EBITDA may differ from the calculations of similarly-titled measures by other companies.
(9) Combined fixed charges are comprised of interest expense from both continuing and discontinued operations and preferred stock dividend requirements.
(10) For the purposes of calculating the ratio of earnings to fixed charges, earnings consist of income from continuing operations before adjustment for minority interest in consolidated subsidiaries, or income or loss from equity investees, and cumulative effect of change in accounting principle plus fixed charges and certain other adjustments. Fixed charges consist of interest incurred on all indebtedness related to continuing and discontinued operations (including amortization of original issue discount) and the implied interest component of the Companys rent obligations in the years presented.
This discussion summarizes the significant factors affecting our consolidated operating results, financial condition and liquidity during the three-year period ended December 31, 2006. This discussion should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes for the three-year period ended December 31, 2006 included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 10-K. These historical financial statements may not be indicative of our future performance. We reclassified certain items in our consolidated financial statements of prior years to conform to our current years presentation. This Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations contains a number of forward-looking statements, all of which are based on our current expectations and could be affected by the uncertainties and risks described throughout this filing, particularly in Item 1a. Risk Factors.
iStar Financial Inc. is a leading publicly traded finance company focused on the commercial real estate industry. We primarily provide custom tailored financing to high-end private and corporate owners of real estate, including senior and mezzanine real estate debt, senior and mezzanine corporate capital, corporate net lease financing and equity. Our company, which is taxed as a real estate investment trust (REIT), seeks to deliver strong dividends and superior risk-adjusted returns on equity to shareholders by providing innovative and value added financing solutions to our customers. Our two primary lines of business are lending and corporate tenant leasing.
The lending business is primarily comprised of senior and mezzanine real estate loans that typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million and have maturities generally ranging from three to ten years. These loans may be either fixed rate (based on the U.S. Treasury rate plus a spread) or variable rate (based on LIBOR plus a spread) and are structured to meet the specific financing needs of the borrowers. We also provide senior and subordinated capital to corporations, particularly those engaged in real estate or real estate related businesses. These financings may be either secured or unsecured, typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million and have maturities generally ranging from three to ten years. As part of the lending business, we also acquire whole loans and loan participations which present attractive risk-reward opportunities.
Our corporate tenant leasing business provides capital to corporations and other owners who control facilities leased to single creditworthy customers. Our net leased assets are generally mission critical headquarters or distribution facilities that are subject to long-term leases with public companies, many of which are rated corporate credits, and many of which provide for most expenses at the facility to be paid by the corporate customer on a triple net lease basis. Corporate tenant lease, or CTL, transactions have initial terms generally ranging from 15 to 20 years and typically range in size from $20 million to $150 million.
Our primary sources of revenues are interest income, which is the interest that our borrowers pay on our loans, and operating lease income, which is the rent that our corporate customers pay us to lease our CTL properties. A smaller and more variable source of revenue is other income, which consists primarily of prepayment penalties and realized gains that occur when our borrowers repay their loans before the maturity date. We primarily generate income through the spread or margin, which is the difference between the revenues generated from our loans and leases and our interest expense and the cost of our CTL operations. We generally seek to match-fund our revenue generating assets with either fixed or floating rate debt of a similar maturity so that changes in interest rates or the shape of the yield curve will have a minimal impact on our earnings.
The year ended December 31, 2006 marked significant growth in our asset base, our revenues and our organization. We grew total assets by more than $2.53 billion and generated $374.8 million of net income and $2.79 of diluted earnings per share (EPS) during 2006, compared to $287.9 million of net income and
$2.11 of diluted EPS during 2005. While we experienced increased competition and liquidity in the real estate finance markets, we continued to make progress in expanding our franchise across markets where we believe that we have competitive advantages.
During 2006, in addition to the growth in our core business, we experienced growth in our AutoStar, TimberStar and European operations. AutoStar is a one-stop provider of financing for the automobile dealership industry, which we believe is a natural extension of our core lending and corporate tenant lease businesses. AutoStar surpassed the $1 billion threshold for commitments in 2006. TimberStar purchases timberlands and enters into long-term lumber supply agreements with mills in close proximity to our land. TimberStar had a successful year as our team led and closed the $1.13 billion acquisition of 900,000 acres of timberland from International Paper in conjunction with several third party equity investors. Finally, we started our geographic expansion into Europe where our strategy is to provide custom tailored financing solutions with the same high level of service for overseas borrowers that we provide in the US markets.
To support our growth, in 2006 we increased the total number of employees by 12% across all levels of the organization and in multiple disciplines including investments, risk management, asset management, financing and accounting. Increased compensation costs and other employee related expenses are the primary reasons that our general and administrative costs increased in 2006, as discussed in greater detail below.
We experienced some credit losses on our lending portfolio in 2006; however, these losses continued to be minimal relative to our overall portfolio. Despite our strong track record, we expect that we will experience losses within the portfolio from time to time.
After experiencing difficult economic and market conditions in 2002 and 2003, the commercial real estate industry experienced increasing property-level operating returns through 2006. During this period, the industry attracted large amounts of investment capital which led to increased property valuations across most sectors. Investors such as pension funds and foreign buyers have increased their allocations to real estate and private real estate funds and individual investors have raised record amounts of capital to invest in the sector. At the same time, interest rates have remained at historically low levels. More recently, the yield curve, or the difference between short-term and long-term interest rates, has flattened or inverted. Lower interest rates have enabled many property owners to finance their assets at attractive rates and proceeds levels. Default rates on commercial mortgages have steadily declined over the past ten years and are now at or near historic lows. As a result, many banks and insurance companies are increasing their real estate lending activities. The securitization markets for commercial real estate, including both the Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (CMBS) and the Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) markets, have experienced record issuance volumes and liquidity. Investors in this arena have been willing to buy increasingly complex and aggressively underwritten transactions. While the fundamentals in most real estate markets are firming, valuations have increased at a faster pace than underlying cash flows due to the large supply of investor capital.
The commercial real estate industry has undergone a transformation over the past ten years. During this time many large real estate-owning companies went public and thousands of commercial real estate loans were rated and securitized. This resulted in the public disclosure of significantly more property-level and market data than had been available in the past. In addition, numerous on-line real estate data sources have been successful in filling the information void and have created publicly available data on almost all real estate asset types across the country. Access to this data has dramatically increased the visibility in the industry. Better disclosure and data has enabled broader and more informed investor participation in the sector and should be an important component in moderating the impact of the broader economic cycles on the real estate industry over longer periods of time.
Key Performance Measures
The following discussion of our results describes the impact that the key trends have had, and are expected to continue to have for the foreseeable future, on our business.
Profitability IndicatorsWe use the following metrics to measure our profitability:
· Adjusted Diluted EPS, calculated as adjusted diluted earnings allocable to common shareholders and HPU holders divided by diluted weighted average common shares outstanding. (See section captioned Adjusted Earnings for more information on this metric).
· Net Finance Margin, calculated as the rate of return on assets less the cost of debt. The rate of return on assets is the sum of interest income and operating lease income, divided by the sum of the average book value of gross corporate tenant lease assets, loans and other lending investments, purchased intangibles and assets held for sale over the period. The cost of debt is the sum of interest expense and operating costs for corporate tenant lease assets, divided by the average book value of gross debt obligations during the period.
· Adjusted Return on Average Common Book Equity, calculated as adjusted basic earnings allocable to common shareholders and HPU holders divided by average common book equity.
The following table summarizes these key metrics: