Centuria’s counter-cyclical & alternatives sectors deliver HY24 resilience

20 February 2024

Australasian real estate fund manager, Centuria Capital Group (ASX: CNI or “Centuria”), announced its interim results for the 2024 Financial Year, which showed the Group’s resilience against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, high interest rates and fewer transactions.

Centuria’s assets under management (AUM) expanded to $21.1 billion, largely driven by growth within its real estate finance business, Centuria Bass Capital ($1.58 billion AUM, +41% yoy); industrial platform ($5.92 billion); and focus on agricultural real estate ($0.55 billion, +31% yoy).

John McBain, Centuria Joint CEO, said, “Centuria is proud of the diversity which has been built into the Group over the past years. The need for this diversity has been highlighted by recent pandemic and financial market disruptions. The entire management team has worked diligently to expand into the financing and agriculture sectors and this has been a major factor in our ability to forecast reliable earnings to our securityholders.

“We’ve received strong interest from wholesale investors for our finance funds, which benefit from upward interest rate movements and provide short-term investment periods. These unlisted funds have become attractive, counter-cyclical investment options.”

Centuria has also identified a $2.3 billion development pipeline to capitalise on strong supply-demand imbalances within select commercial markets. Significantly, $1.0 billion is earmarked for the outperforming industrial sector, which benefits from constrained supply, outsized rental growth and continued high occupier demand.

The Group further captured industrial investment appetite with the $500 million Last Mile Logistics Partnership (LMLP) from US private investment firm, Starwood Capital, of which $147 million has been deployed.

Jason Huljich, Centuria Joint CEO, said, “Centuria continued to harness tailwinds from the outperforming industrial real estate sector by securing the Starwood mandate, in addition to CIP identifying a significant development pipeline, which aims to capitalise on historically low domestic vacancy rates and limited supply within urban infill industrial markets.

“Alternative real estate markets, namely real estate finance and agriculture, provided strong growth throughout the period, benefiting from unlisted wholesale and retail investor appetite for emerging market investment opportunities. We believe these sectors, in particular, will continue to expand in the near to mid-term driven by constrained lending criteria from traditional finance markets and Australia’s expanding population increasing demand for fresh produce.”

During the period, Centuria’s unlisted platform generated $0.3 billion of capital raising inflows. Additionally, $0.3 billion of gross development projects were completed during HY24.

As at 31 December 2023, Centuria managed c.417 properties and 2,450 tenant customers. Its real estate platform provides an average 96.2% occupancy, 5.7-year WALE3 and an average capitalisation rate of 6.03%.

Centuria’s Group Operating Profit After Tax was$49.4 million, resulting in OEPS1 of 6.1 cents per security (cps) and an interim distribution of 5.0cps was declared. Total operating revenues of $149.6 million reflect restrained transaction volumes. Net asset value (NAV) increased to $1.78 per security, through unrealised fair value gains from the Group’s co-investment stakes.

Balance sheet flexibility strengthened through a $50 million extension of Centuria’s revolving loan note to FY27. Centuria benefits from $255 million of cash and undrawn debt available at HY24 end and the realisation of $187 million in cash from the sale and recycling of balance sheet assets, which contributed to operating gearing of 13.9%.

Mr. McBain and Mr. Huljich concluded, “Australia’s growing population, driven by surging migration, provides strong tailwinds across the real estate sectors Centuria is exposed to. This extends to traditional sectors including decentralised offices, large format retail and daily needs retail as well as industrial, agriculture, healthcare and real estate finance.

“Centuria maintains a conservative approach to capital management with substantial cash and undrawn debt, which enables us to support the continued growth of our business units. The Group remains focused on creating long-term value for our securityholders.”

Centuria reaffirms its FY24 operating EPS guidance of 11.5 – 12.0 cents per security and DPS guidance of 10.0 cents per security.