INVESTORS REAL ESTATE TRUST 10-K 2008
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)
of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
For the fiscal year ended April 30, 2008
Commission File Number 000-14851
Investors Real Estate Trust
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
12 Main Street South
Minot, North Dakota 58701
(Address of principal executive offices)
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Common Shares of Beneficial Interest (no par value) - NASDAQ Global Select Market
Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Shares of Beneficial Interest (no par value) -
NASDAQ Global Select Market
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
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 Registrant’s 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
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Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
The aggregate market value of the Registrant’s outstanding common shares of beneficial interest held by non-affiliates (i.e., by persons other than officers and trustees of the Registrant as reflected in the table in Item 12 of this Form 10-K, incorporated by reference from the Registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2008 Annual Meeting of Shareholders) was $592,992,811 based on the last reported sale price on the NASDAQ Global Select Market on October 31, 2007.
The number of common shares of beneficial interest outstanding as of June 30, 2008, was 57,869,815.
References in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the “Company,” “IRET,” “we,” “us,” or “our” include consolidated subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.
Documents Incorporated by Reference: Portions of IRET’s definitive Proxy Statement for its 2008 Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held on September 16, 2008 are incorporated by reference into Part III (Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14) hereof.
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INVESTORS REAL ESTATE TRUST
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Special Note Regarding Forward Looking Statements
Certain statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the documents incorporated into this document by reference are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Such forward-looking statements include statements about our belief that we have the liquidity and capital resources necessary to meet our known obligations and to make additional real estate acquisitions and capital improvements when appropriate to enhance long term growth; and other statements preceded by, followed by or otherwise including words such as “believe,” “expect,” “intend,” “project,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “potential,” “may,” “will,” “designed,” “estimate,” “should,” “continue” and other similar expressions. These statements indicate that we have used assumptions that are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results or performance to differ materially from those projected.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, we can give no assurance that these expectations will prove to have been correct. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements include:
Readers should carefully review our financial statements and the notes thereto, as well as the section entitled “Risk Factors” in Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and the other documents we file from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).
In light of these uncertainties, the events anticipated by our forward-looking statements might not occur. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. The foregoing review of factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in any forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K should not be construed as exhaustive.
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Investors Real Estate Trust is a self-advised equity Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) organized under the laws of North Dakota. Since our formation in 1970, our business has consisted of owning and operating income-producing real estate properties. We are structured as an Umbrella Partnership Real Estate Investment Trust or UPREIT and we conduct our day-to-day business operations though our operating partnership, IRET Properties, a North Dakota Limited Partnership (“IRET Properties” or the “Operating Partnership”). Our investments consist of multi-family residential properties and commercial office, medical, industrial and retail properties. These properties are located primarily in the upper Midwest states of Minnesota and North Dakota. For the twelve months ended April 30, 2008, our real estate investments in these two states accounted for 67.4% of our total gross revenue. Our principal executive offices are located in Minot, North Dakota. We also have offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Omaha, Nebraska, and property management offices in Kansas City, Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri.
We seek to diversify our investments among multi-family residential and office, medical, industrial and retail properties. As of April 30, 2008, our real estate portfolio consisted of:
Our residential leases are generally for a one-year term. Our commercial properties are typically leased to tenants under long-term lease arrangements. As of April 30, 2008, no single tenant accounted for more than 10% of our total rental revenues.
We were organized as a REIT under the laws of North Dakota on July 31, 1970.
Since our formation, we have operated as a REIT under Sections 856-858 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), and since February 1, 1997, we have been structured as an UPREIT. Since restructuring as an UPREIT, we have conducted all of our daily business operations through IRET Properties. IRET Properties is organized under the laws of North Dakota pursuant to an Agreement of Limited Partnership dated January 31, 1997. IRET Properties is principally engaged in acquiring, owning, operating and leasing multi-family residential and commercial real estate. The sole general partner of IRET Properties is IRET, Inc., a North Dakota corporation and our wholly-owned subsidiary. All of our assets (except for qualified REIT subsidiaries) and liabilities were contributed to IRET Properties, through IRET, Inc., in exchange for the sole general partnership interest in IRET Properties. As of April 30, 2008, IRET, Inc. owned a 73.1% interest in IRET Properties. The remaining ownership of IRET Properties is held by individual limited partners.
Investment Strategy and Policies
Our business objective is to increase shareholder value by employing a disciplined investment strategy. This strategy is focused on growing assets in desired geographical markets, achieving diversification by property type and location, and adhering to targeted returns in acquiring properties.
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We generally use available cash or short-term floating rate debt to acquire real estate. We then replace such cash or short-term floating rate debt with fixed-rate secured debt, typically in an amount equal to 65.0% to 75.0% of a property’s appraised value. In appropriate circumstances, we also may acquire one or more properties in exchange for our common shares of beneficial interest (“common shares”) or for limited partnership units of IRET Properties (“limited partnership units” or “UPREIT Units”), which are convertible, after the expiration of a minimum holding period of one year, into cash or, at our sole discretion, into our common shares on a one-to-one basis.
Our investment strategy is to invest in multi-family residential properties, and in office, medical, industrial and retail commercial properties that are leased to single or multiple tenants, usually for five years or longer, and are located throughout the upper Midwest. We operate mainly within the states of North Dakota and Minnesota, although we also have real estate investments in South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin.
In order to implement our investment strategy we have certain investment policies. Our significant investment policies are as follows:
Investments in the securities of, or interests in, entities primarily engaged in real estate activities and other securities. While we are permitted to invest in the securities of other entities engaged in the ownership and operation of real estate, as well as other securities, we currently have no plans to make any investments in other securities.
Any policy, as it relates to investments in other securities, may be changed by a majority of the members of our Board of Trustees at any time without notice to or a vote of our shareholders.
Investments in real estate or interests in real estate. We currently own multi-family residential properties and/or commercial properties in 13 states. We may invest in real estate, or interests in real estate, located anywhere in the United States; however, we currently plan to focus our investments in those states in which we already have property, with specific concentration in Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, and Kansas. Similarly, we may invest in any type of real estate or interest in real estate including, but not limited to, office buildings, apartment buildings, shopping centers, industrial and commercial properties, special purpose buildings and undeveloped acreage. Under our Third Restated Trustees’ Regulations (Bylaws), however, we may not invest more than 10.0% of our total assets in unimproved real estate, excluding property being developed or property where development will be commenced within one year.
It is not our policy to acquire assets primarily for capital gain through sale in the short term. Rather, it is our policy to acquire assets with an intention to hold such assets for at least a 10-year period. During the holding period, it is our policy to seek current income and capital appreciation through an increase in value of our real estate portfolio, as well as increased revenue as a result of higher rents.
Any policy, as it relates to investments in real estate or interests in real estate may be changed by our Board of Trustees at any time without notice to or a vote of our shareholders.
Investments in real estate mortgages. While not our primary business focus, from time to time we make loans to others that are secured by mortgages, liens or deeds of trust covering real estate. We have no restrictions on the type of property that may be used as collateral for a mortgage loan; provided, however, that except for loans insured or guaranteed by a government or a governmental agency, we may not invest in or make a mortgage loan unless an appraisal is obtained concerning the value of the underlying property. Unless otherwise approved by our Board of Trustees, it is our policy that we will not invest in mortgage loans on any one property if in the aggregate the total indebtedness on the property, including our mortgage, exceeds 85.0% of the property’s appraised value. We can invest in junior mortgages without notice to, or the approval of, our shareholders. As of April 30, 2007 and 2008, we had no junior mortgages outstanding. We had one contract for deed outstanding as of April 30, 2007, with a balance of approximately $399,000, net of reserves, due to us. We had two contracts for deed outstanding as of April 30, 2008, with a combined balance of approximately $541,000, net of reserves, due to us.
Our policies relating to mortgage loans, including second mortgages, may be changed by our Board of Trustees at any time, or from time to time, without notice to, or a vote of, our shareholders.
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Policies With Respect to Certain of Our Activities
Our current policies as they pertain to certain of our activities are described as follows:
Cash distributions to shareholders and holders of limited partnership units. One of the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, for a REIT is that it distribute 90% of its net taxable income, excluding net capital gains, to its shareholders. There is a separate requirement to distribute net capital gains or pay a corporate level tax in lieu thereof. We intend to continue our policy of making cash distributions to our common shareholders and the holders of limited partnership units of approximately 65.0% to 90.0% of our funds from operations and to use the remaining funds for capital improvements or the purchase of additional properties. This policy may be changed at any time by our Board of Trustees without notice to, or approval of, our shareholders. We have increased our cash distributions every year since our inception 38 years ago and every quarter since 1988.
Issuing senior securities. On April 26, 2004, we issued 1,150,000 shares of 8.25% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Shares of Beneficial Interest (the “Series A preferred shares”). Depending on future interest rate and market conditions, we may issue additional preferred shares or other senior securities which would have dividend and liquidation preference over our common shares.
Borrowing money. We rely on borrowed funds in pursuing our investment objectives and goals. It is generally our policy to seek to borrow up to 65.0% to 75.0% of the appraised value of all new real estate acquired or developed. This policy concerning borrowed funds is vested solely with our Board of Trustees and can be changed by our Board of Trustees at any time, or from time to time, without notice to, or a vote of, our shareholders. Such policy is subject, however, to the limitation in our Bylaws, which provides that unless approved by a majority of the independent members of our Board of Trustees and disclosed to our shareholders in our next quarterly report along with justification for such excess, we may not borrow in excess of 300.0% of our total Net Assets (as such term is used in our Bylaws, which usage is not in accordance with GAAP, “Net Assets” means our total assets at cost before deducting depreciation or other non-cash reserves, less total liabilities). Our Bylaws do not impose any limitation on the amount that we may borrow against any one particular property. As of April 30, 2008, our ratio of total real estate mortgages to total real estate assets was 73.1% while our ratio of total indebtedness as compared to our Net Assets (computed in accordance with our Bylaws) was 143.8%.
Offering securities in exchange for property. Our organizational structure allows us to issue shares and to offer limited partnership units of IRET Properties in exchange for real estate. The limited partnership units are convertible into cash, or, at our option, common shares on a one-for-one basis after a minimum one-year holding period. All limited partnership units receive the same cash distributions as those paid on common shares. Limited partners are not entitled to vote on any matters affecting us until they convert their limited partnership units to common shares.
Our Articles of Amendment and Third Restated Declaration of Trust does not contain any restrictions on our ability to offer limited partnership units of IRET Properties in exchange for property. As a result, any decision to do so is vested solely in our Board of Trustees. This policy may be changed at any time, or from time to time, without notice to, or a vote of, our shareholders. For the three most recent fiscal years ended April 30, we have issued the following limited partnership units of IRET Properties in exchange for properties:
Acquiring or repurchasing shares. As a REIT, it is our intention to invest only in real estate assets. Our Articles of Amendment and Third Restated Declaration of Trust does not prohibit the acquisition or repurchase of our common or preferred shares or other securities so long as such activity does not prohibit us from operating as a REIT under the Code. Any policy regarding the acquisition or repurchase of shares or other securities is vested solely in our Board of Trustees and may be changed at any time, or from time to time, without notice to, or a vote of, our shareholders.
During fiscal year 2008, we did not repurchase any of our outstanding common shares, preferred shares or limited partnership units, except for the redemption of a nominal amount of fractional common shares held by shareholders, upon request.
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To make loans to other persons. Our organizational structure allows us to make loans to other persons, subject to certain conditions and subject to our election to be taxed as a REIT. All loans must be secured by real property or limited partnership units of IRET Properties. Our mortgage loans receivables (including contracts for deed), net of reserves, totaled approximately $541,000 as of April 30, 2008, and $399,000 as of April 30, 2007.
To invest in the securities of other issuers for the purpose of exercising control. We have not, for the past three years, engaged in, and we are not currently engaging in, investment in the securities of other issuers for the purpose of exercising control. Our Articles of Amendment and Third Restated Declaration of Trust does not impose any limitation on our ability to invest in the securities of other issuers for the purpose of exercising control. Any decision to do so is vested solely in our Board of Trustees and may be changed at any time, or from time to time, without notice to, or a vote of, our shareholders.
To provide summary reports to our shareholders. We also have a policy of mailing summary quarterly reports to our shareholders in January, April, July, and October of each year. The quarterly reports do not contain financial statements audited by an independent registered public accounting firm. This policy of providing a summary quarterly report to our shareholders is not required by our organizational documents and may be changed by a majority of our Board of Trustees at any time without notice to or a vote of our shareholders.
Information about Segments
We currently operate in five reportable real estate segments: multi-family residential, office, medical (including senior housing), industrial and retail. For further information on these segments and other related information, see Note 11 of our consolidated financial statements, and Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations in Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our Executive Officers
Set forth below are the names, ages, titles and biographies of each of our executive officers as of July 1, 2008.
Thomas A. Wentz, Sr. is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has been associated with us since our formation on July 31, 1970. Mr. Wentz was a member of our Board of Trustees from 1970 to 1998, Secretary from 1970 to 1987, Vice President from 1987 to July 2000, and has been President and Chief Executive Officer since July 2000. Previously, from 1985 to 1991, Mr. Wentz was a Vice President of our former advisor, Odell-Wentz & Associates, L.L.C., and, until August 1, 1998, was a partner in the law firm of Pringle & Herigstad, P.C.
Timothy P. Mihalick joined us as a financial officer in May 1981, after graduating from Minot State University. He has served in various capacities with us over the years and was named Vice President in 1992. Mr. Mihalick has served as the Chief Operating Officer since 1997, as a Senior Vice President since 2002, and as a member of our Board of Trustees since 1999.
Thomas A. Wentz, Jr. is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of North Dakota School of Law, and joined us as General Counsel and Vice President in January 2000. He has served as a Senior Vice President of Asset Management and Finance since 2002 and as a member of our Board of Trustees since 1996. Prior to 2000, Mr. Wentz was a shareholder in the law firm of Pringle & Herigstad, P.C. from 1992 to 1999. Mr. Wentz is a member of the American Bar Association and the North Dakota Bar Association, and he is a Director of SRT Communications, Inc. Mr. Wentz is the son of Thomas A. Wentz, Sr.
Diane K. Bryantt is a graduate of Minot State University, joined us in June 1996, and served as our Controller and Corporate Secretary before being appointed to the positions of Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. Prior to joining us, Ms. Bryantt was employed by First American Bank, Minot, North Dakota.
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Michael A. Bosh joined us as Associate General Counsel and Secretary in September 2002, and was named General Counsel in September 2003. Prior to 2002, Mr. Bosh was a shareholder in the law firm of Pringle & Herigstad, P.C. Mr. Bosh graduated from Jamestown College in 1992 and from Washington & Lee University School of Law in 1995. Mr. Bosh is a member of the American Bar Association and the North Dakota Bar Association.
Kelly A. Walters joined IRET in October of 2006 as Vice President of Capital Markets and New Business Development. Prior to joining IRET, Mr. Walters spent ten years as Senior Vice President of Magnum Resources, Inc., a privately held real estate investment and operating firm, based in Omaha, NE, and from 1993 through 1996, he was a senior portfolio manager with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in Chicago, IL. Prior to 1993, Mr. Walters spent five years as the Investment Manager at Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc. in Omaha, NE. Mr. Walters earned his undergraduate degree in finance at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and received his MBA from the University of Nebraska.
As of April 30, 2008, we had 69 employees.
Environmental Matters and Government Regulation
Under various federal, state and local laws, ordinances and regulations relating to the protection of the environment, a current or previous owner or operator of real estate may be liable for the costs of removal or remediation of certain hazardous or toxic substances released at a property, and may be held liable to a governmental entity or to third parties for property damage or personal injuries and for investigation and clean-up costs incurred in connection with any contamination. In addition, some environmental laws create a lien on a contaminated site in favor of the government for damages and costs it incurs in connection with the contamination. These laws often impose liability without regard to whether the current owner was responsible for, or even knew of, the presence of such substances. It is generally our policy to obtain from independent environmental consultants a “Phase I” environmental audit (which involves visual inspection but not soil or groundwater analysis) on all properties that we seek to acquire. We do not believe that any of our properties are subject to any material environmental contamination. However, no assurances can be given that:
In addition to laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment, many other laws and governmental regulations are applicable to our properties, and changes in the laws and regulations, or in their interpretation by agencies and the courts, occur frequently. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”), all places of public accommodation are required to meet certain federal requirements related to access and use by disabled persons. In addition, the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the “FHAA”) requires apartment communities first occupied after March 13, 1990, to be accessible to the handicapped. Non-compliance with the ADA or the FHAA could result in the imposition of fines or an award of damages to private litigants. We believe that those of our properties to which the ADA and/or FHAA apply are substantially in compliance with present ADA and FHAA requirements.
Investing in and operating real estate is a very competitive business. We compete with other owners and developers of multi-family and commercial properties to attract tenants to our properties. Ownership of competing properties is diversified among other REITs, financial institutions, individuals and public and private companies who are actively engaged in this business. Our multi-family properties compete directly with other rental apartments, as well as with condominiums and single-family homes that are available for rent or purchase in the areas in which our properties are located. Our commercial properties compete with other commercial properties for tenants. Additionally, we compete with other real estate investors, including other REITs, pension and investment funds, partnerships and investment companies, to acquire properties. This competition affects our ability to acquire properties we want to add to our portfolio and the price we pay in acquisitions. We do not believe we have a dominant position in any of
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the geographic markets in which we operate, but some of our competitors are dominant in selected markets. Many of our competitors have greater financial and management resources than we have. We believe, however, that the geographic diversity of our investments, the experience and abilities of our management, the quality of our assets and the financial strength of many of our commercial tenants affords us some competitive advantages that have in the past and will in the future allow us to operate our business successfully despite the competitive nature of our business.
The Company’s Board of Trustees has adopted various policies and initiatives to strengthen the Company’s corporate governance and increase the transparency of financial reporting. Each of the committees of the Company’s Board of Trustees operates under written charters, and the Company’s independent trustees meet regularly in executive sessions at which only the independent trustees are present. The Board of Trustees has also adopted a Code of Conduct applicable to trustees, officers and employees, and a Code of Ethics for Senior Financial Officers, and has established processes for shareholder communications with the Board of Trustees.
Additionally, the Company’s Audit Committee has established procedures for the receipt, retention and treatment of complaints regarding accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters, including procedures for the confidential, anonymous submission by Company employees of concerns regarding accounting or auditing matters. The Audit Committee also maintains a policy requiring Audit Committee approval of all audit and non-audit services provided to the Company by the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm.
The Company will disclose any amendment to its Code of Ethics for Senior Financial officers on its website. In the event the Company waives compliance by any of its trustees or officers subject to the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct, the Company will disclose such waiver in a Form 8-K filed within four business days.
Website and Available Information
Our internet address is www.iret.com. We make available, free of charge, through the “SEC filings” tab under the Investor Relations section of our internet website, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, our current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to such reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after such forms are filed with or furnished to the SEC. Current copies of our Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics for Senior Financial Officers, and Charters for the Audit, Compensation, Executive and Nominating Committees of our Board of Trustees are also available on our website under the heading “Corporate Governance” in the Investor Relations section of our website. Copies of these documents are also available to shareholders upon request addressed to the Secretary at Investors Real Estate Trust, P.O. Box 1988, Minot, North Dakota 58701. Information on our internet website does not constitute part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Risks Related to Our Properties and Business
Our performance and share value are subject to risks associated with the real estate industry. Our results of operations and financial condition, the value of our real estate assets, and the value of an investment in us are subject to the risks normally associated with the ownership and operation of real estate properties. These risks include, but are not limited to, the following factors which, among others, may adversely affect the income generated by our properties:
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Our property acquisition activities subject us to various risks which could adversely affect our operating results. We have acquired in the past and intend to continue to pursue the acquisition of properties and portfolios of properties, including large portfolios that could increase our size and result in alterations to our capital structure. Our acquisition activities and their success are subject to numerous risks, including, but not limited to:
These risks could have an adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition and the amount of cash available for payment of distributions.
Acquired properties may subject us to unknown liabilities which could adversely affect our operating results. We may acquire properties subject to liabilities and without any recourse, or with only limited recourse against prior owners or other third parties, with respect to unknown liabilities. As a result, if liability were asserted against us based upon ownership of these properties, we might have to pay substantial sums to settle or contest it, which could adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows. Unknown liabilities with respect to acquired properties might include liabilities for clean-up of undisclosed environmental contamination; claims by tenants, vendors or other persons against the former owners of the properties; liabilities incurred in the ordinary course of business; and claims for indemnification by general partners, directors, officers and others indemnified by the former owners of the properties.
Our geographic concentration in Minnesota and North Dakota may result in losses due to our significant exposure to the effects of economic and real estate conditions in those markets. For the fiscal year ended April 30, 2008, we received approximately 67.4% of our gross revenue from properties in Minnesota and North Dakota. As a result of this concentration, we are subject to substantially greater risk than if our investments were more geographically dispersed. Specifically, we are more significantly exposed to the effects of economic and real estate conditions in those particular markets, such as building by competitors, local vacancy and rental rates and general levels of employment and economic activity. To the extent that weak economic or real estate conditions affect Minnesota and/or North Dakota more severely than other areas of the country, our financial performance could be negatively impacted.
If we are not able to renew leases or enter into new leases on favorable terms or at all as our existing leases expire, our revenue, operating results and cash flows will be reduced. We may be unable to renew leases with our existing
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tenants or enter into new leases with new tenants due to economic and other factors as our existing leases expire or are terminated prior to the expiration of their current terms. As a result, we could lose a significant source of revenue while remaining responsible for the payment of our obligations. In addition, even if we were able to renew existing leases or enter into new leases in a timely manner, the terms of those leases may be less favorable to us than the terms of expiring leases, because the rental rates of the renewal or new leases may be significantly lower than those of the expiring leases, or tenant installation costs, including the cost of required renovations or concessions to tenants, may be significant. If we are unable to enter into lease renewals or new leases on favorable terms or in a timely manner for all or a substantial portion of space that is subject to expiring leases, our revenue, operating results and cash flows will be adversely affected. As a result, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest may be adversely affected. As of April 30, 2008, approximately 879,000 square feet, or 7.6% of our total commercial property square footage, was vacant. Approximately 747 of our 9,500 apartment units, or 7.9%, were vacant. As of April 30, 2008, leases covering approximately 8.3% of our total commercial segments net rentable square footage will expire in fiscal year 2009, 12.7% in fiscal year 2010, 21.0% in fiscal year 2011, 12.8% in fiscal year 2012, and 9.6% in fiscal year 2013.
We face potential adverse effects from commercial tenant bankruptcies or insolvencies. The bankruptcy or insolvency of our commercial tenants may adversely affect the income produced by our properties. 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 cannot evict the tenant solely because of such bankruptcy. A court, however, may authorize the 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 actually owed under the lease, and it is unlikely that a bankrupt tenant would pay in full amounts it owes us under a lease. This shortfall could adversely affect our cash flow and results of operations. If a tenant experiences a downturn in its business or other types of financial distress, it may be unable to make timely rental payments. Under some circumstances, 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 less than the agreed rental amount. Additionally, without regard to the manner in which a 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, as well as possibly lower rental rates reflective of declines in market rents.
Because real estate investments are generally illiquid, and various factors limit our ability to dispose of assets, we may not be able to sell properties when appropriate. Real estate investments are relatively illiquid and, therefore, we have limited ability to vary our portfolio quickly in response to changes in economic or other conditions. In addition, the prohibitions under the federal income tax laws on REITs holding property for sale and related regulations may affect our ability to sell properties. Our ability to dispose of assets may also be limited by constraints on our ability to utilize disposition proceeds to make acquisitions on financially attractive terms, and the requirement that we take additional impairment charges on certain assets. More specifically, we are required to distribute or pay tax on all capital gains generated from the sale of assets, and, in addition, a significant number of our properties were acquired using limited partnership units of IRET Properties, our operating partnership, and are subject to certain agreements which restrict our ability to sell such properties in transactions that would create current taxable income to the former owners. As a result, we are motivated to structure the sale of these assets as tax-free exchanges. To accomplish this we must identify attractive re-investment opportunities. Recently, while capital market conditions have been favorable for dispositions, investment yields on acquisitions have been less attractive due to the abundant capital inflows into the real estate sector. These considerations impact our decisions on whether or not to dispose of certain of our assets.
Inability to manage our rapid growth effectively may adversely affect our operating results. We have experienced significant growth in recent years, increasing our total assets from approximately $1.2 billion at April 30, 2006, to $1.6 billion at April 30, 2008, principally through the acquisition of additional real estate properties. Subject to our continued ability to raise equity capital and issue limited partnership units of IRET Properties and identify suitable investment properties, we intend to continue our acquisition of real estate properties. Effective management of this level of growth presents challenges, including:
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We may not be able to maintain similar rates of growth in the future, or manage our growth effectively. Our failure to do so may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations and ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest.
Competition may negatively impact our earnings. We compete with many kinds of institutions, including other REITs, private partnerships, individuals, pension funds and banks, for tenants and investment opportunities. Many of these institutions are active in the markets in which we invest and have greater financial and other resources that may be used to compete against us. With respect to tenants, this competition may affect our ability to lease our properties, the price at which we are able to lease our properties and the cost of required renovations or tenant improvements. With respect to acquisition and development investment opportunities, this competition may cause us to pay higher prices for new properties than we otherwise would have paid, or may prevent us from purchasing a desired property at all.
An inability to make accretive property acquisitions may adversely affect our ability to increase our operating income. From our fiscal year ended April 30, 2006, to our fiscal year ended April 30, 2008, our operating income increased from $9.9 million to $12.3 million. The acquisition of additional real estate properties is critical to our ability to increase our operating income. If we are unable to continue to make real estate acquisitions on terms that meet our financial and strategic objectives, whether due to market conditions, a changed competitive environment or unavailability of capital, our ability to increase our operating income may be materially and adversely affected.
High leverage on our overall portfolio may result in losses. As of April 30, 2008, our ratio of total indebtedness to total Net Assets (as that term is used in our Bylaws, which usage is not in accordance with GAAP, “Net Assets” means our total assets at cost before deducting depreciation or other non-cash reserves, less total liabilities) was approximately 143.8%. As of April 30, 2007 and 2006, our percentage of total indebtedness to total Net Assets was approximately 149.6% and 138.0%, respectively. Under our Bylaws we may increase our total indebtedness up to 300.0% of our Net Assets, or by an additional approximately $1.2 billion. There is no limitation on the increase that may be permitted if approved by a majority of the independent members of our board of trustees and disclosed to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest in the next quarterly report, along with justification for any excess.
This amount of leverage may expose us to cash flow problems if rental income decreases. Under those circumstances, in order to pay our debt obligations we might be required to sell properties at a loss or be unable to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest. A failure to pay amounts due may result in a default on our obligations and the loss of the property through foreclosure. Additionally, our degree of leverage could adversely affect our ability to obtain additional financing and may have an adverse effect on the market price of our common shares.
Our inability to renew, repay or refinance our debt may result in losses. We incur a significant amount of debt in the ordinary course of our business and in connection with acquisitions of real properties. In addition, because we are unable to retain earnings as a result of the REIT distribution requirements, we will generally be required to refinance debt that matures with additional debt or equity. We are subject to the normal risks associated with debt financing, including the risk that:
These risks increase when the credit markets are tight, as they are now; in general, when the credit markets are constrained, we may encounter resistance from lenders when we seek financing or refinancing for properties or proposed acquisitions, and the terms of such financing or refinancing are likely to be less favorable to us than the terms of our current indebtedness.
We anticipate that only a small portion of the principal of our debt will be repaid prior to maturity. Therefore, we are likely to need to refinance at least a portion of our outstanding debt as it matures. We cannot guarantee that any refinancing of debt with other debt will be possible on terms that are favorable or acceptable to us. If we cannot refinance, extend or pay principal payments due at maturity with the proceeds of other capital transactions, such as
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new equity capital, our cash flows may not be sufficient in all years to repay debt as it matures. Additionally, if we are unable to refinance our indebtedness on acceptable terms, or at all, we may be forced to dispose of one or more of our properties on disadvantageous terms, which may result in losses to us. These losses could have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. Furthermore, if a property is mortgaged to secure payment of indebtedness and we are unable to meet mortgage payments, the mortgagee could foreclose upon the property, appoint a receiver and receive an assignment of rents and leases or pursue other remedies, all with a consequent loss of our revenues and asset value. Foreclosures could also create taxable income without accompanying cash proceeds, thereby hindering our ability to meet the REIT distribution requirements of the Internal Revenue Code.
The cost of our indebtedness may increase. Portions of our fixed-rate indebtedness incurred for past property acquisitions come due on a periodic basis. Rising interest rates could limit our ability to refinance this existing debt when it matures, and would increase our interest costs, which could have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. In addition, we have incurred, and we expect to continue to incur, indebtedness that bears interest at a variable rate. As of April 30, 2008, $11.7 million, or approximately 1.1%, of the principal amount of our total mortgage indebtedness was subject to variable interest rate agreements. If short-term interest rates rise, our debt service payments on adjustable rate debt would increase, which would lower our net income and could decrease our distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest.
We depend on distributions and other payments from our subsidiaries that they may be prohibited from making to us, which could impair our ability to make distributions to holders of our shares of beneficial interest. Substantially all of our assets are held through IRET Properties, our operating partnership, and other of our subsidiaries. As a result, we depend on distributions and other payments from our subsidiaries in order to satisfy our financial obligations and make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest. The ability of our subsidiaries to make such distributions and other payments depends on their earnings, and may be subject to statutory or contractual limitations. As an equity investor in our subsidiaries, our right to receive assets upon their liquidation or reorganization effectively will be subordinated to the claims of their creditors. To the extent that we are recognized as a creditor of such subsidiaries, our claims may still be subordinate to any security interest in or other lien on their assets and to any of their debt or other obligations that are senior to our claims.
Our current or future insurance may not protect us against possible losses. We carry comprehensive liability, fire, extended coverage and rental loss insurance with respect to our properties at levels that we believe to be adequate and comparable to coverage customarily obtained by owners of similar properties. However, the coverage limits of our current or future policies may be insufficient to cover the full cost of repair or replacement of all potential losses. Moreover, this level of coverage may not continue to be available in the future or, if available, may be available only at unacceptable cost or with unacceptable terms. Additionally, there may be certain extraordinary losses, such as those resulting from civil unrest, terrorism or environmental contamination, that are not generally, or fully, insured against because they are either uninsurable or not economically insurable. For example, we do not currently carry insurance against losses as a result of environmental contamination. Should an uninsured or underinsured loss occur to a property, we could be required to use our own funds for restoration or lose all or part of our investment in, and anticipated revenues from, the property. In any event, we would continue to be obligated on any mortgage indebtedness on the property. Any loss could have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. In addition, in most cases we have to renew our insurance policies on an annual basis and negotiate acceptable terms for coverage, exposing us to the volatility of the insurance markets, including the possibility of rate increases. Any material increase in insurance rates or decrease in available coverage in the future could adversely affect our business and financial condition and results of operations, which could cause a decline in the market value of our securities.
We have significant investments in medical properties and adverse trends in healthcare provider operations may negatively affect our lease revenues from these properties. We have acquired a significant number of specialty medical properties (including senior housing) and may acquire more in the future. As of April 30, 2008, our real estate portfolio consisted of 48 medical properties, with a total real estate investment amount, net of accumulated depreciation, of $327.5 million, or approximately 22.9% of the total real estate investment amount, net of accumulated depreciation, of our entire real estate portfolio. The healthcare industry is currently experiencing changes in the demand for, and methods of delivery of, healthcare services; changes in third-party reimbursement policies; significant unused capacity in certain areas, which has created substantial competition for patients among healthcare providers in those areas; continuing pressure by private and governmental payors to reduce payments to
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providers of services; and increased scrutiny of billing, referral and other practices by federal and state authorities. Sources of revenue for our medical property tenants may include the federal Medicare program, state Medicaid programs, private insurance carriers and health maintenance organizations, among others. Efforts by such payors to reduce healthcare costs will likely continue, which may result in reductions or slower growth in reimbursement for certain services provided by some of our tenants. These factors may adversely affect the economic performance of some or all of our medical services tenants and, in turn, our lease revenues. In addition, if we or our tenants terminate the leases for these properties, or our tenants lose their regulatory authority to operate such properties, we may not be able to locate suitable replacement tenants to lease the properties for their specialized uses. Alternatively, we may be required to spend substantial amounts to adapt the properties to other uses. Any loss of revenues and/or additional capital expenditures occurring as a result could hinder our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest.
Adverse changes in applicable laws may affect our potential liabilities relating to our properties and operations. Increases in real estate taxes and income, service and transfer taxes cannot always be passed through to all tenants in the form of higher rents. As a result, any increase may adversely affect our cash available for distribution, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. Similarly, changes in laws that increase the potential liability for environmental conditions existing on properties, that increase the restrictions on discharges or other conditions or that affect development, construction and safety requirements may result in significant unanticipated expenditures that could have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. In addition, future enactment of rent control or rent stabilization laws or other laws regulating multi-family residential properties may reduce rental revenues or increase operating costs.
Complying with laws benefiting disabled persons or other safety regulations and requirements may affect our costs and investment strategies. Federal, state and local laws and regulations designed to improve disabled persons’ access to and use of buildings, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, may require modifications to, or restrict renovations of, existing buildings. Additionally, these laws and regulations may require that structural features be added to buildings under construction. Legislation or regulations that may be adopted in the future may impose further burdens or restrictions on us with respect to improved access to, and use of these buildings by, disabled persons. Noncompliance could result in the imposition of fines by government authorities or the award of damages to private litigants. The costs of complying with these laws and regulations may be substantial, and limits or restrictions on construction, or the completion of required renovations, may limit the implementation of our investment strategy or reduce overall returns on our investments. This could have an adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. Our properties are also subject to various other federal, state and local regulatory requirements, such as state and local fire and life safety requirements. If we fail to comply with these requirements, we could incur fines or private damage awards. Additionally, in the event that existing requirements change, compliance with future requirements may require significant unanticipated expenditures that may adversely affect our cash flow and results of operations.
We may be responsible for potential liabilities under environmental laws. Under various federal, state and local laws, ordinances and regulations, we, as a current or previous owner or operator of real estate may be liable for the costs of removal of, or remediation of, hazardous or toxic substances in, on, around or under that property. These laws may impose liability without regard to whether we knew of, or were responsible for, the presence of the hazardous or toxic substances. The presence of these substances, or the failure to properly remediate any property containing these substances, may adversely affect our ability to sell or rent the affected property or to borrow funds using the property as collateral. In arranging for the disposal or treatment of hazardous or toxic substances, we may also be liable for the costs of removal of, or remediation of, these substances at that disposal or treatment facility, whether or not we own or operate the facility. In connection with our current or former ownership (direct or indirect), operation, management, development and/or control of real properties, we may be potentially liable for removal or remediation costs with respect to hazardous or toxic substances at those properties, as well as certain other costs, including governmental fines and claims for injuries to persons and property. A finding of liability for an environmental condition as to any one or more properties could have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt.
Environmental laws also govern the presence, maintenance and removal of asbestos, and require that owners or operators of buildings containing asbestos properly manage and maintain the asbestos; notify and train those who
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may come into contact with asbestos; and undertake special precautions if asbestos would be disturbed during renovation or demolition of a building. Indoor air quality issues may also necessitate special investigation and remediation. These air quality issues can result from inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from indoor or outdoor sources, or biological contaminants such as molds, pollen, viruses and bacteria. Such asbestos or air quality remediation programs could be costly, necessitate the temporary relocation of some or all of the property’s tenants or require rehabilitation of an affected property.
It is generally our policy to obtain a Phase I environmental study on each property that we seek to acquire. A Phase I environmental study generally includes a visual inspection of the property and the surrounding areas, an examination of current and historical uses of the property and the surrounding areas and a review of relevant state and federal documents, but does not involve invasive techniques such as soil and ground water sampling. If the Phase I indicates any possible environmental problems, our policy is to order a Phase II study, which involves testing the soil and ground water for actual hazardous substances. However, Phase I and Phase II environmental studies, or any other environmental studies undertaken with respect to any of our current or future properties, may not reveal the full extent of potential environmental liabilities. We currently do not carry insurance for environmental liabilities.
We may be unable to retain or attract qualified management. We are dependent upon our senior officers for essentially all aspects of our business operations. Our senior officers have experience in the specialized business segments in which we operate, and the loss of them would likely have a material adverse effect on our operations, and could adversely impact our relationships with lenders, industry personnel and potential tenants. We do not have employment contracts with any of our senior officers. As a result, any senior officer may terminate his or her relationship with us at any time, without providing advance notice. If we fail to manage effectively a transition to new personnel, or if we fail to attract and retain qualified and experienced personnel on acceptable terms, our business and prospects could be harmed. The location of our company headquarters in Minot, North Dakota, may make it more difficult and expensive to attract, relocate and retain current and future officers and employees.
Failure to comply with changing regulation of corporate governance and public disclosure could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and stock price, and continuing compliance will result in additional expenses. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as well as new rules and standards subsequently implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission and NASDAQ, have required changes in some of our corporate governance and accounting practices, and are creating uncertainty for us and many other public companies, due to varying interpretations of the rules and their evolving application in practice. We expect these laws, rules and regulations to increase our legal and financial compliance costs, and to subject us to additional risks. In particular, if we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal controls in accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as such standards may be modified, supplemented or amended from time to time, a material misstatement could go undetected, and we may not be able to ensure that we can conclude on an ongoing basis that we have effective internal controls over financial reporting. Failure to maintain an effective internal control environment could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results, and stock price. Additionally, our efforts to comply with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the related regulations have required, and we believe will continue to require, the commitment of significant financial and managerial resources.
Risks Related to Our Structure and Organization
We may incur tax liabilities as a consequence of failing to qualify as a REIT. Although our management believes that we are organized and have operated and are operating in such a manner to qualify as a “real estate investment trust,” as that term is defined under the Internal Revenue Code, we may not in fact have operated, or may not be able to continue to operate, in a manner to qualify or remain so qualified. Qualification as a REIT involves the application of highly technical and complex Internal Revenue Code provisions for which there are only limited judicial or administrative interpretations. Even a technical or inadvertent mistake could endanger our REIT status. The determination that we qualify as a REIT requires an ongoing analysis of various factual matters and circumstances, some of which may not be within our control. For example, in order to qualify as a REIT, at least 95% of our gross income in any year must come from qualifying sources that are itemized in the REIT tax laws, and we are prohibited from owning specified amounts of debt or equity securities of some issuers. Thus, to the extent revenues from non-qualifying sources, such as income from third-party management services, represent more than five percent of our gross income in any taxable year, we will not satisfy the 95% income test and may fail to qualify as a REIT, unless certain relief provisions contained in the Internal Revenue Code apply. Even if relief provisions apply, however, a tax would be imposed with respect to excess net income. We are also required to make
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distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest of at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, excluding net capital gains. The fact that we hold substantially all of our assets (except for qualified REIT subsidiaries) through IRET Properties, our operating partnership, and its subsidiaries, and our ongoing reliance on factual determinations, such as determinations related to the valuation of our assets, further complicates the application of the REIT requirements for us. Additionally, if IRET Properties, our operating partnership, or one or more of our subsidiaries is determined to be taxable as a corporation, we may fail to qualify as a REIT. Either our failure to qualify as a REIT, for any reason, or the imposition of taxes on excess net income from non-qualifying sources, could have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. Furthermore, new legislation, regulations, administrative interpretations or court decisions could change the tax laws with respect to our qualification as a REIT or the federal income tax consequences of our qualification.
If we failed to qualify as a REIT, we would be subject to federal income tax (including any applicable alternative minimum tax) on our taxable income at corporate rates, which would likely have a material adverse effect on us, our ability to make distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest and our ability to pay amounts due on our debt. In addition, we could be subject to increased state and local taxes, and, unless entitled to relief under applicable statutory provisions, we would also be disqualified from treatment as a REIT for the four taxable years following the year during which we lost our qualification. This treatment would reduce funds available for investment or distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest because of the additional tax liability to us for the year or years involved. In addition, we would no longer be able to deduct, and would not be required to make, distributions to holders of our common shares. To the extent that distributions to the holders of our shares of beneficial interest had been made in anticipation of qualifying as a REIT, we might be required to borrow funds or to liquidate certain investments to pay the applicable tax.
Failure of our operating partnership to qualify as a partnership would have a material adverse effect on us. We believe that IRET Properties, our operating partnership, qualifies as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. No assurance can be given, however, that the Internal Revenue Service will not challenge its status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, or that a court would not sustain such a challenge. If the Internal Revenue Service were to be successful in treating IRET Properties as an entity that is taxable as a corporation, we would cease to qualify as a REIT because the value of our ownership interest in IRET Properties would exceed 5% of our assets, and because we would be considered to hold more than 10% of the voting securities of another corporation. Also, the imposition of a corporate tax on IRET Properties would reduce significantly the amount of cash available for distribution by it.
Certain provisions of our Articles of Amendment and Third Restated Declaration of Trust may limit a change in control and deter a takeover. In order to maintain our qualification as a REIT, our Third Restated Declaration of Trust provides that any transaction, other than a transaction entered into through the NASDAQ National Market, (recently renamed the NASDAQ Global Market), or other similar exchange, that would result in our disqualification as a REIT under Section 856 of the Internal Revenue Code, including any transaction that would result in (i) a person owning in excess of the ownership limit of 9.8%, in number or value, of our outstanding shares of beneficial interest, (ii) less than 100 people owning our shares of beneficial interest, (iii) our being “closely held” within the meaning of Section 856(h) of the Internal Revenue Code, or (iv) 50% or more of the fair market value of our shares of beneficial interest being held by persons other than “United States persons,” as defined in Section 7701(a)(30) of the Internal Revenue Code, will be void ab initio. If the transaction is not void ab initio, then the shares of beneficial interest in excess of the ownership limit, that would cause us to be closely held, that would result in 50% or more of the fair market value of our shares of beneficial interest to be held by persons other than United States persons or that otherwise would result in our disqualification as a REIT, will automatically be exchanged for an equal number of excess shares, and these excess shares will be transferred to an excess share trustee for the exclusive benefit of the charitable beneficiaries named by our board of trustees. These limitations may have the effect of preventing a change in control or takeover of us by a third party, even if the change in control or takeover would be in the best interests of the holders of our shares of beneficial interest.
In order to maintain our REIT status, we may be forced to borrow funds during unfavorable market conditions. In order to maintain our REIT status, we may need to borrow funds on a short-term basis to meet the REIT distribution requirements, even if the then-prevailing market conditions are not favorable for these borrowings. To qualify as a REIT, we generally must distribute to our shareholders at least 90% of our net taxable income each year, excluding net capital gains. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax on the amount, if any, by which certain distributions made by us with respect to the calendar year are less than the sum of 85% of our ordinary
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income, 95% of our capital gain net income for that year, and any undistributed taxable income from prior periods. We intend to make distributions to our shareholders to comply with the 90% distribution requirement and to avoid the nondeductible excise tax and will rely for this purpose on distributions from our operating partnership. However, we may need short-term debt or long-term debt or proceeds from asset sales or sales of common shares to fund required distributions as a result of differences in timing between the actual receipt of income and the recognition of income for federal income tax purposes, or the effect of non-deductible capital expenditures, the creation of reserves or required debt or amortization payments. The inability of our cash flows to cover our distribution requirements could have an adverse impact on our ability to raise short and long-term debt or sell equity securities in order to fund distributions required to maintain our REIT status.
Our board of trustees may make changes to our major policies without approval of the holders of our shares of beneficial interest. Our operating and financial policies, including policies relating to development and acquisition of real estate, financing, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions, are exclusively determined by our board of trustees. Our board of trustees may amend or revoke those policies, and other policies, without advance notice to, or the approval of, the holders of our shares of beneficial interest. Accordingly, our shareholders do not control these policies, and policy changes could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Related to the Purchase of our Shares of Beneficial Interest
Our future growth depends, in part, on our ability to raise additional equity capital, which will have the effect of diluting the interests of the holders of our common shares. Our future growth depends upon, among other things, our ability to raise equity capital and issue limited partnership units of IRET Properties. The issuance of additional common shares, and of limited partnership units for which we subsequently issue common shares upon the redemption of the limited partnership units, will dilute the interests of the current holders of our common shares. Additionally, sales of substantial amounts of our common shares or preferred shares in the public market, or issuances of our common shares upon redemption of limited partnership units in our operating partnership, or the perception that such sales or issuances might occur, could adversely affect the market price of our common shares.
We may issue additional classes or series of our shares of beneficial interest with rights and preferences that are superior to the rights and preferences of our common shares. Without the approval of the holders of our common shares, our board of trustees may establish additional classes or series of our shares of beneficial interest, and such classes or series may have dividend rights, conversion rights, voting rights, terms of redemption, redemption prices, liquidation preferences or other rights and preferences that are superior to the rights of the holders of our common shares.
Payment of distributions on our shares of beneficial interest is not guaranteed. Our board of trustees must approve our payment of distributions and may elect at any time, or from time to time, and for an indefinite duration, to reduce the distributions payable on our shares of beneficial interest or to not pay distributions on our shares of beneficial interest. Our board of trustees may reduce distributions for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:
Our distributions are not eligible for the lower tax rate on dividends except in limited situations. The tax rate applicable to qualifying corporate dividends received by certain non-corporate shareholders prior to 2010 has been reduced to a maximum rate of 15%. This special tax rate is generally not applicable to distributions paid by a REIT, unless such distributions represent earnings on which the REIT itself had been taxed. As a result, distributions (other than capital gain distributions) paid by us to certain non-corporate shareholders will generally be subject to the tax rates that are otherwise applicable to ordinary income which, currently, are as high as 35%. This law change may make an investment in our common shares comparatively less attractive relative to an investment in the shares of other entities which pay dividends but are not formed as REITs.
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Changes in market conditions could adversely affect the price of our shares of beneficial interest. As is the case with any publicly-traded securities, certain factors outside of our control could influence the value of our common shares,
Series A preferred shares and any other classes or series of preferred shares of beneficial interest to be issued in the future. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
Higher market interest rates may adversely affect the market price of our common shares, and low trading volume on the NASDAQ Global Select Market may prevent the timely resale of our common shares. One of the factors that investors may consider important in deciding whether to buy or sell shares of a REIT is the distribution with respect to such REIT’s shares as a percentage of the price of those shares, relative to market interest rates. If market interest rates rise, prospective purchasers of REIT shares may expect a higher distribution rate in order to maintain their investment. Higher market interest rates would likely increase our borrowing costs and might decrease funds available for distribution. Thus, higher market interest rates could cause the market price of our common shares to decline. In addition, although our common shares of beneficial interest are listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, the daily trading volume of our shares may be lower than the trading volume for other companies. The average daily trading volume for the period of May 1, 2007, through April 30, 2008, was 194,469 shares and the average monthly trading volume for the period of May 1, 2007 through April 30, 2008 was 4,100,054 shares. As a result of this trading volume, an owner of our common shares may encounter difficulty in selling our shares in a timely manner and may incur a substantial loss.
IRET is organized as a REIT under Section 856-858 of the Code, and is in the business of owning, leasing, developing and acquiring real estate properties. These real estate investments are managed by our own employees and by third-party professional real estate management companies on our behalf.
Certain financial information from fiscal 2007 and 2006 was adjusted to reflect the effects of discontinued operations. See the Property Dispositions section in Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and the discussion in Note 12 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Total Real Estate Rental Revenue
As of April 30, 2008, our real estate portfolio consisted of 72 multi-family residential properties and 163 commercial properties, consisting of office, medical, industrial and retail properties, comprising 28.6%, 34.9%, 22.9%, 6.6%, and 7.0%, respectively, of our total real estate portfolio, based on the dollar amount of our original investment plus capital improvements, net of accumulated depreciation, through April 30, 2008. Gross annual rental revenue and percentages of total annual real estate rental revenue by property type for each of the three most recent fiscal years ended April 30, are as follows:
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Economic Occupancy Rates
Economic occupancy levels on a stabilized property and all-property basis are shown below for each property type in each of the three most recent fiscal years ended April 30. Economic occupancy represents actual rental revenues recognized for the period indicated as a percentage of scheduled rental revenues for the period. Percentage rents, tenant concessions, straightline adjustments and expense reimbursements are not considered in computing either actual revenues or scheduled rent revenues. Scheduled rent revenue is determined by valuing occupied units or square footage at contract rates and vacant units or square footage at market rates. Stabilized properties are those properties owned for the entirety of both periods being compared. While results presented on a stabilized property basis are not determined in accordance with GAAP, management believes that measuring performance on a stabilized property basis is useful to investors and to management because it enables evaluation of how the Company’s properties are performing year over year. In the case of multi-family residential properties, lease arrangements with individual tenants vary from month-to-month to one-year leases. Leases on commercial properties generally vary from month-to-month to 20 years.
Certain Lending Requirements
In certain instances, in connection with the acquisition of investment properties, the lender financing such properties may require, as a condition of the loan, that the properties be owned by a “single asset entity.” Accordingly, we have organized a number of wholly-owned subsidiary corporations, and IRET Properties has organized several limited partnerships, for the purpose of holding title in an entity that complies with such lending conditions. All financial statements of these subsidiaries are consolidated into our financial statements.
Management and Leasing of Our Real Estate Assets
We conduct our operations from offices in Minot, North Dakota; Minneapolis, Minnesota and Omaha, Nebraska. We also have property management offices in St. Louis, Missouri; Jamestown, North Dakota and Kansas City, Kansas. The day-to-day management of our commercial properties is carried out by our own employees and by third-party property management companies. The management and leasing of our multi-family residential properties are handled by locally-based, third-party management companies.
In markets where the amount of rentable square footage we own does not justify self-management, when properties acquired have effective pre-existing property management in place, or when for other reasons particular properties are in our judgment not attractive candidates for self-management, we utilize third-party professional management companies for day-to-day management. However, all decisions relating to purchase, sale, insurance coverage, capital improvements, approval of commercial leases, annual operating budgets and major renovations are made exclusively by our employees and implemented by the third-party management companies. As of April 30, 2008, we have under internal management 90 commercial properties. Our remaining 73 commercial properties are managed by third parties. We plan to continue evaluating our portfolio to identify other commercial properties that may be candidates for management by our own employees.
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As of April 30, 2008, we had property management contracts and/or leasing agreements with the following companies:
Generally, our management contracts provide for compensation ranging from 2.5% to 5.0% of gross rent collections and, typically, we may terminate these contracts in 60 days or less or upon the property manager’s failure to meet certain specified financial performance goals.
With respect to multi-tenant commercial properties, we rely almost exclusively on third-party brokers to locate potential tenants. As compensation, brokers may receive a commission that is generally calculated as a percentage of the net rent to be paid over the term of the lease. We believe that the broker commissions paid by us conform to market and industry standards, and accordingly are commercially reasonable.
Summary of Real Estate Investment Portfolio
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Summary of Individual Properties Owned as of April 30, 2008
The following table presents information regarding our 235 properties owned as of April 30, 2008. We own the following interests in real estate either through our wholly-owned subsidiaries or by ownership of a controlling interest in an entity owning the real estate. We account for these interests on a consolidated basis. Occupancy rates given are the average economic occupancy rates for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2008:
* = Real estate not owned in fee; all or a portion is leased under a ground or air rights lease.
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