David Helfand, president and CEO of Equity Commonwealth (NYSE: EQC), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview during REITWeek 2015: NAREIT’s Investor Forum, held in New York.
Based in Chicago, Equity Commonwealth owns commercial office properties throughout the United States and Australia. In May 2014, a new board of trustees and management team were appointed to lead the company, formerly known as CommonWealth REIT. Equity International Chairman Sam Zell serves as chairman of Equity Commonwealth’s board.
Since that time, the company overhauled its entire corporate governance system and began work on assessing individual assets on an in-depth basis. Helfand said the work on assessing assets is now complete, allowing the company to begin selling off $2 billion to $3 billion in assets. The disposition program is aimed at improving the overall quality of the portfolio. As part of that strategy, he noted that Equity Commonwealth recently announced the sale of $800 million of assets.
Turning to balance sheet developments, Helfand said the REIT has paid down $1.2 billion of debt. “The balance sheet is now in really good shape,” he said, with net debt at four times to adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). Helfand pointed out that the company has also received recognition from the rating agencies and has $1 billion of available cash.
As for the remainder of the year, Helfand said he expects Equity Commonwealth to continue focusing on disposing of assets: “That will be our story for the year.”