Star Advertiser: “Kauai ranch sale helps Alexander & Baldwin turn a profit”

Kauai ranch sale helps Alexander & Baldwin turn a profit

COURTESY ALEXANDER & BALDWIN

A stone house on a Kauai ranch Alexander & Baldwin Inc. sold for $8.1 million in the third quarter.

Selling 566 acres of land on Kauai and Maui helped Alexander & Baldwin Inc. earn $6.6 million in the third quarter and reverse a year- earlier $1.4 million loss that included heavy costs to close Hawaii’s last sugar cane plantation.

Honolulu-based A&B reported the financial results Tuesday for the three months ended Sept. 30.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $111.5 million in the quarter from $102.9 million in the same period last year.

The company’s three major operating segments — land, commercial real estate leasing and road construction subsidiary Grace Pacific — all contributed to the improved revenue and profit performance.

A&B also said it continues to make strong progress converting itself to a real estate investment trust, reducing mainland real estate holdings in favor of investing more in Hawaii and finding agricultural tenants for its former 36,000-acre Maui plantation Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

THIRD-QUARTER NET$6.6 million

YEAR-EARLIER LOSS

$1.4 million

“I’m incredibly excited about where the company is going,” Chris Benjamin, A&B president and CEO, said in a conference call with stock analysts. “This is a long road we’re on.”

During the third quarter, A&B’s biggest source of profit was property leases largely involving retail space that includes several Hawaii shopping centers and the commercial core of Kailua. This segment’s operating profit was $13.6 million in the third quarter, up slightly from $13.5 million in the same period last year.

The biggest improvement among A&B’s divisions was in land development and sale operations. Operating profit for this part of A&B rose to $10.4 million in the recent quarter from $7.8 million a year earlier.

This gain came primarily from selling a 273-acre ranch on Kauai for $8.1 million and 293 acres of vacant land on Maui for $7.9 million. A&B also earned $2.9 million from sales of two town homes next to its Kakaako condominium tower The Collection, three residential properties at its Kauai vacation community Kukuiula and four residential properties at a similar project on the Big Island called Ka Milo.

The Kauai ranch several years ago was subdivided and marketed for sale by A&B as 24 farm or home lots. But more recently A&B sought a single buyer for the property, which was once the family estate of Kauai sugar pioneer Walter Duncan McBryde and features a 4,200-square-foot stone house from 1860 that used to be a plantation manager’s residence.

A&B’s third primary business segment, rock quarry and road paving firm Grace Pacific, produced a $6.5 million operating profit in the recent quarter. That was up from $5.6 million a year earlier and benefited from laying down 31 percent more asphalt, though competitive pricing pressures cut into the gain.

Previously, A&B had another business segment for agriculture, but that was folded into land operations after the sugar plantation shutdown in December. In the third quarter A&B still had some expenses related to discontinued HC&S operations, resulting in an $800,000 after-tax loss. However, that compared with a $13.6 million after-tax loss for HC&S operations in last year’s third quarter.

Benjamin said A&B is making quicker-than-expected progress finding new uses for its former plantation land, with negotiations to lease 15,000 acres that could bring total use up to roughly 20,000 acres in a few months if negotiations are successful.

A&B since January has converted 4,500 acres into active farming and ranching, and is working to add 900 acres to a Maui County ag park, the company said.

The other big ongoing transition at A&B is converting itself from a regular corporation to a real estate investment trust, or REIT. This initiative is expected to attract more investment capital for A&B to buy Hawaii commercial property, and will also provide the company with tax advantages.

A&B spent $4.4 million on the conversion in the third quarter, up from $1.9 million a year earlier. In total, A&B expects the change to cost $25 million to $27 million.

Shares of A&B stock closed at $45.19 Tuesday before the earnings announcement, closer to the upper end of a 52-week range between $40.02 on May 31 and $46.87 on Oct. 3.

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