Star-Advertiser: “A&B profit soars after tax benefit”

A&B profit soars after tax benefit

A $225 million tax benefit in the fourth quarter helped major Hawaii retail property owner Alexander & Baldwin Inc. earn $231 million last year that grossly overshadowed an $8 million loss the year before.

Honolulu-based A&B announced its latest financial results Wednesday and said the tax benefit mainly related to its conversion last year to a real estate investment trust. The recent federal tax overhaul also would have had a similar effect.

As a REIT, A&B was able to erase about $220 million in deferred tax obligations that it incurred from selling mainly commercial real estate over many years. A&B deferred paying taxes on gains from the sales by using proceeds to buy other properties, though the company could have had to pay the taxes one day if it sold the properties without reinvesting proceeds in more real estate.

2017 NET$231 million

YEAR-EARLIER LOSS

$8 million

Now A&B has no responsibility for those potential future tax payments because the obligation shifted to company shareholders under the structure of REITs that provides federal tax breaks because at least 90 percent of profits must go to shareholders, who are in turn taxed on those dividends.

Were it not for special tax adjustments, A&B would have had a $12.7 million loss in the fourth quarter compared with a $14.6 million profit in the same quarter a year earlier, and a $9.9 million profit for all of last year compared with $32.2 million in 2016.

Chris Benjamin, A&B president and CEO, said he was pleased with the company’s operational performance — mainly results from leasing commercial property to tenants, selling land, and running the local asphalt and paving company Grace Pacific.

Benjamin also noted that A&B is close to completing a strategy started in 2013 to sell off mainland commercial real estate to acquire mainly retail properties in Hawaii. On Friday, A&B bought three shopping centers — Laulani Village on Oahu, Pu‘unene Shopping Center on Maui and Hokulei Village on Kauai — for $254 million financed largely by mainland property sales.

“We are a stronger, more focused company today,” he said in a conference call with stock analysts.

A&B said its commercial properties were about 94 percent leased at the end of last year and the year before. But the company reported a $6.9 million operating loss for its commercial property portfolio in the fourth quarter related to three mainland properties being sold. In the 2016 fourth quarter, A&B’s commercial property operating profit was $13.5 million. For all of last year, commercial property operating profit was $34.4 million, down from $54.8 million in 2016.

Land sales by A&B last year included one lot on Kahala Avenue for $13.6 million, 36 affordable condominiums on Maui for $13 million, and 713 acres of Maui and Kauai farmland for $20.1 million.

Operating profit from land operations was $4.5 million in the fourth quarter, down from $13.9 million a year earlier, and $14.2 million for all of 2017 compared with $7 million in 2016.

At Grace Pacific, fourth-quarter operating profit was $3 million, down from $4.8 million a year earlier, and $22 million for all of 2017 compared with $23.3 million in 2016.

Shares of A&B stock closed at a 52-week low of $21.99 Wednesday before the company released financial results. The 52-week high was $29.88 on Oct. 3.

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