Plaza Retail REIT Provides Business Update Related to COVID-19 - Apr 27, 2020

Plaza Retail REIT Provides Business Update Related to COVID-19

Apr 27, 2020

FREDERICTON, April 27, 2020 /CNW/ - Plaza Retail REIT ("Plaza" or the "Trust") (TSX: PLZ.UN) today provided an update on the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on its business. 

"Plaza's top priority is the health and well-being of employees, tenants and our communities," said Michael Zakuta, President & CEO.  "Consequently, we have implemented appropriate procedures to ensure that we are continuing to conduct business in a safe and effective manner, including implementing technology to permit our entire team to work remotely.  Plaza will emerge from this environment in a strong position, ready to take advantage of future growth opportunities." 

April Rent Collection

Plaza's portfolio is dominated by essential needs tenants such as drug, grocery, dollar stores and other necessity-based retailers.  93% of its portfolio is comprised of open-air centres (strips, free-standing stores and restaurants), leased predominantly to national tenants.  Currently, approximately 60% of its tenants remain fully or partially open.  

To date, Plaza has collected 71% of April's gross rent, on a consolidated basis.

Plaza will continue taking proactive measures to collect rents from tenants expected to have the financial resources to fulfill their obligations.  To support those that are more vulnerable, Plaza has implemented a rent deferral program.  Local, small businesses that demonstrate a need for assistance may qualify to defer a portion or all of their rent for the months of April and May, with an agreement to repay the amount over a specified period, interest-free.  To date, Plaza has entered into rent deferral agreements for $0.6 million of April's rent, representing 7.5% of its total April gross rent on a consolidated basis. 

Plaza remains committed to working with its tenants and finding solutions to support their businesses, while protecting Plaza's financial position.     

Financial Position

Plaza has sufficient liquidity, including cash on hand and undrawn credit facilities, to meet its current obligations and working capital requirements.  As of March 31, 2020, Plaza had $9.4 million of cash on hand and $20.4 million available on its operating line.  In addition, Plaza had $27.3 million undrawn development and interim financing facilities (on a consolidated basis), as well as $6.8 million undrawn interim financing facilities in non-consolidated investments.     

As the full extent and duration of the impact of COVID-19 remains unclear at this time, Plaza has been prudently managing its capital:

  • while existing development projects and planning work on new developments is proceeding, new acquisitions and new developments that are not committed have been deferred, thereby reducing near term capital commitments;
  • a proactive cost management program has been undertaken to reduce general and administrative expenses and property operating costs, defer elective capital expenditures and other payments such as property tax and QST/HST remittances, where permitted. Plaza has also temporarily frozen all salaries, deferred payment of 2019 bonuses, and its President & CEO and Chairman have deferred their salaries;
  • Plaza is actively monitoring the availability and anticipated effect of government relief programs that may be applicable and participating in such programs where beneficial to the Trust and its tenants;
  • expenditures such as conferences, travel, meals and entertainment have also all decreased as a natural result of limitations imposed by COVID-19.

Plaza has approximately $55 million of long-term mortgage maturities remaining in 2020, the vast majority of which are in Q3 and Q4.  They are expected to be refinanced in due course.  Plaza is also in the process of renewing its $6 million unsecured debenture which matures in June 2020.

Virtual Annual Meeting

Plaza's 2020 annual meeting of unitholders will be held on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 10:00 am (ADT) / 9:00 am (EDT).  Plaza believes the safest way to participate in the meeting is remotely and, as such, has decided to hold the meeting virtually via live audio webcast. This will help ensure the well-being of stakeholders, while still enabling participation by unitholders in the meeting.  Further information about the virtual meeting is provided in Plaza's management information circular for the meeting on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on Plaza's website at www.plaza.ca. All unitholders are encouraged to attend.

About Plaza

Plaza is an open-ended real estate investment trust and is a leading retail property owner and developer, focused on Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.  Plaza's portfolio at December 31, 2019 includes interests in 274 properties totaling approximately 8.4 million square feet across Canada and additional lands held for development. Plaza's portfolio largely consists of open-air centres and stand-alone small box retail outlets and is predominantly occupied by national tenants.  For more information, please visit www.plaza.ca.

Cautionary Statements regarding Forward-looking Information

This press release contains forward-looking statements with respect to Plaza and its operations, which can generally be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as "will", "believe", "expect", as well as variations thereof and other expressions or phrases that do not relate to historical facts. Forward looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, those which relate to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Plaza's plans, expectations and intentions with respect to the collection of rent from tenants and expectations with respect to its position emerging from the current environment and future growth.  Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Plaza to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements contained in this press release, including but not limited to uncertainty related to the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of tenants to satisfy rental payments under existing leases, the availability of financing the Trust has access to or may anticipate utilizing, the ability to refinance outstanding debt when due and those described in Plaza's Annual Information Form for the year ended December 31, 2019 and Management's Discussion and Analysis for the year ended December 31, 2019, which can both be obtained on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Although the forward-looking statements contained in this press release are based upon information currently available to management and what management believes are reasonable expectations and assumptions, there can be no assurances that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate. Therefore, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release and Plaza undertakes no obligation to update such statements, except as required by law. These cautionary statements qualify all forward-looking statements contained in this press release.

SOURCE Plaza Retail REIT

For further information: Michael Zakuta, President & CEO, Tel: 514.457.7007, ext 2228; Jim Drake, Chief Financial Officer, Tel: 902.483.4064