SL Green Realty Corp., a major office landlord in New York City and Westchester County, will cut its dividend by more than half as it responds to a weakening economy and a softening real estate market.
The New York-based real estate investment trust said that it will pay a dividend of 37.5 cents a share during the fourth quarter, down from from the dividend of 78.8 cents that it paid during the four previous quarters.
“Given the current capital markets environment, we have reset the dividend to reflect the company’s current policy to preserve internally generated cash flows,” Chief Executive Officer Marc Holliday said in a written statement. “Looking forward, this reset will help conserve approximately $95 million for the company in 2009.”
Analysts have been concerned that the worst downturn in the financial services industry since the Great Depression could hurt SL Green more than other real eatate companies. More than 85 percent of the company’s office leases comes from Midtown Manhattan, home to large numbers of troubled financial companies.
“Financial-services firms, which make up 42 percent of SL Green’s base rental revenue, are cutting back on head count, demanding less space and even subleasing office space that they no longer need,” Morningstar analyst Jeremy Glaser wrote in a research report. “Although demand from other sectors and international firms is picking up some of the slack, rental rates have moved downward for the first time in four years as vacancies have inched up.”
In 2007, SL Green acquired 3.6 million square feet of space in Westchester, and Stamford, Conn., helping to diversfy the company beyond Manhattan.
Glaser said that the divdend cut will help SL Green preserve capital in an uncertain economy.
“Management believes that the crisis will eventually bring opportunities to buy distressed assets at bargain prices,” Glaser said. “However, we’d still prefer SL Green pay down its debt and strengthen its balance sheet before it takes on more acquisitions.”
Shares of SL Green dropped $2.80 to $24.42 in trading today on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock is down 72 percent during the past year.