Andrew Alexander, president and CEO of Weingarten Realty Investors (NYSE: WRI), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview in Chicago during REITWeek 2013: NAREIT’s Investor Forum.
Weingarten Realty Investors owns 286 neighborhood and community shopping centers in 21 states across the country.
Alexander discussed the company’s balance sheet, growth strategies and the Main Street Fairness Act. Alexander said he’s pleased with the state of Weingarten Realty’s balance sheet at present.
“I think our balance sheet is in excellent shape. Our maturity letter is also good,” he said. “We announced a major capital-recycling initiative a couple of years ago, and that, along with refinancing, put our balance sheet in excellent, excellent shape.”
Alexander said Weingarten prefers to focus on both new development projects and acquisitions as effective paths to growth in the market. However, he added that he’s not seeing a lot of new development opportunities at present in the shopping center market.
“The tenants are finding just enough space that they can avoid paying the premiums that would be necessary to make new development pencil out in a lot of cases. The supply and demand will change over the next several years, and we’ll see more new development,” he said.
Additionally, Alexander said Weingarten’s experience in development, acquisition and redevelopment, as well as managing its own portfolio, makes its two-pronged approach to growth a good strategy.
“So, we’ll really always look at both. I mean, if you could acquire a good asset and not have the risk of a new development, then that’s a great tool to have in your quiver,” he said.
Alexander expressed his support for the Main Street Fairness Act, a bill that has been introduced in Congress that would grant states the authority to compel online retailers to collect sales taxes at the time of a transaction.
“There are some people—for reasons that don’t’ make any sense—who don’t understand that it is just a leveling of the playing field. It’s really about the fairness and the collection of the taxes. It’s not even new tax. So, I think we will get there,” Alexander said.