In this Annual Report, we refer to Essential Properties Realty Trust, Inc., a Maryland corporation, together with its consolidated subsidiaries, including, Essential Properties, L.P., a Delaware limited partnership and its operating partnership (the "Operating Partnership"), as "we," "us," "our" or "the Company" unless we specifically state otherwise or the context otherwise requires.
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This report contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the "Exchange Act"). In particular, statements pertaining to our business and growth strategies, investment, financing and leasing activities and trends in our business, including trends in the market for long-term, net leases of freestanding, single-tenant properties, contain forward-looking statements. When used in this report, the words "estimate," "anticipate," "expect," "believe," "intend," "may," "will," "should," "seek," "approximately" and "plan," and variations of such words, and similar words or phrases, that are predictions of future events or trends and that do not relate solely to historical matters, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. You can also identify forward-looking statements by discussions of strategy, plans, beliefs or intentions of management.
Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from the results of operations or plans expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements; accordingly, you should not rely on forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Forward-looking statements depend on assumptions, data or methods that may be incorrect or imprecise, and may not be realized. We do not guarantee that the transactions and events described will happen as described (or that they will happen at all). The following factors, among others, could cause actual results and future events to differ materially from those set forth or contemplated in the forward-looking statements:
•general business and economic conditions;
•risks inherent in the real estate business, including tenant defaults or bankruptcies, illiquidity of real estate investments, fluctuations in real estate values and the general economic climate in local markets, competition for tenants in such markets, potential liability relating to environmental matters and potential damages from natural disasters;
•the performance and financial condition of our tenants;
•the availability of suitable properties to acquire and our ability to acquire and lease those properties on favorable terms;
•our ability to renew leases, lease vacant space or re-lease space as existing leases expire or are terminated;
•volatility and uncertainty in financial markets, in particular the equity and credit markets, fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index ("CPI"), and the impact of inflation on us and our tenants;
•the degree and nature of our competition;
•our failure to generate sufficient cash flows to service our outstanding indebtedness;
•our ability to access debt and equity capital on attractive terms;
•fluctuating interest rates;
•availability of qualified personnel and our ability to retain our key management personnel;
•changes in, or the failure or inability to comply with, applicable law or regulation;
•our failure to continue to qualify for taxation as a real estate investment trust ("REIT");
•changes in the U.S. tax law and other U.S. laws, whether or not specific to REITs;
•any adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic ("COVID-19") on the Company and its tenants; and
•additional factors discussed in the sections entitled "Business," "Risk Factors" and "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" in this Annual Report.
You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this report. While forward-looking statements reflect our good faith beliefs, they are not guarantees of future events or of our performance. We disclaim any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement to reflect changes in underlying assumptions or factors, new information, data or methods, future events or other changes, except as required by law.
Because we operate in a highly competitive and rapidly changing environment, new risks emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all such risks, nor can management assess the impact of all such risks on our business or the extent to which any risk, or combination of risks, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. Given these risks and uncertainties, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as a prediction of actual events or results.
Summary Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a number of risks that could materially and adversely impact our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and liquidity, prospects, the market price of our common stock and our ability to, among other things, service our debt and to make distributions to our stockholders. The following risks, which, together with other material risks that are discussed more fully herein under “Risk Factors,” are the principal factors that make an investment in our company speculative or risky:
•adverse changes in the U.S., global and local markets and related economic conditions;
•the failure of our tenants to successfully operate their businesses, or tenant defaults, bankruptcies or insolvencies;
•defaults by borrowers on our mortgage loans receivable;
•an inability to identify and complete acquisitions of suitable properties or yield the returns we seek with future acquisitions;
•an inability to access debt and equity capital on commercially acceptable terms or at all;
•a decline in the fair value of our real estate assets;
•geographic, industry and tenant concentrations that reduce the diversity of our portfolio;
•a reduction in the willingness or ability of consumers to physically patronize or use their discretionary income in the businesses of our tenants and potential tenants;
•our significant indebtedness, which requires substantial cash flow to service, subjects us to covenants and exposes us to refinancing risk and the risk of default;
•failure to continue to qualify for taxation as a REIT; and
•any adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on us and our tenants.
Item 1. Business.
We are an internally managed real estate company that acquires, owns and manages primarily single-tenant properties that are net leased on a long-term basis to middle-market companies operating service-oriented or experience-based businesses. We have assembled a diversified portfolio using a disciplined strategy that focuses on properties leased to tenants in businesses such as:
•Early childhood education,
•Restaurants (primarily quick service restaurants and casual dining),
•Medical and dental services,
•Health and fitness,
•Equipment rental and
We believe that, in general, properties leased to tenants in these businesses and similar businesses are essential to the generation of the tenants' sales and profits. We also believe that these businesses have favorable growth potential and, because of their nature they are more insulated from e-commerce pressure than many other businesses.
We completed our initial public offering in June 2018 (our "IPO") and we qualified to be taxed as a REIT beginning with our taxable year ended December 31, 2018. As of December 31, 2022, 93.0% of our $297.2 million of annualized base rent was attributable to properties operated by tenants in service-oriented and experience-based businesses. "Annualized base rent" means annualized contractually specified cash base rent in effect on December 31, 2022 for all of our leases (including those accounted for as loans or direct financing leases) commenced as of that date and annualized cash interest on our mortgage loans receivable as of that date.
Our primary business objective is to maximize stockholder value by generating attractive risk-adjusted returns through owning, managing and growing a diversified portfolio of commercially desirable properties. We have grown significantly since commencing our operations and investment activities in June 2016. As of December 31, 2022, our portfolio consisted of 1,653 properties, inclusive of 153 properties which secure our investments in mortgage loans receivable. Our portfolio was built based on the following core investment attributes:
Diversified Portfolio. As of December 31, 2022, our portfolio was 99.9% occupied by 350 tenants operating 538 different concepts (i.e., generally brands) in 16 industries across 48 states, with none of our tenants contributing more than 3.4% of our annualized base rent. Our goal is that, over time, no more than 5% of our annualized base rent will be derived from any single tenant or more than 1% from any single property.
Long Lease Term. As of December 31, 2022, our leases had a weighted average remaining lease term of 13.9 years (based on annualized base rent), with only 6.1% of our annualized base rent attributable to leases expiring prior to January 1, 2028. Our properties generally are subject to long-term net leases that we believe provide us a stable base of revenue from which to grow our portfolio.
Significant Use of Master Leases. As of December 31, 2022, 65.0% of our annualized base rent was attributable to master leases. A master lease is a single lease pursuant to which multiple properties are leased to a single operator/tenant on a unitary (i.e., “all or none”) basis. The master lease structure spreads our investment risk across multiple properties, and we believe it reduces our exposure to operating and renewal risk at any one property, and promotes efficient asset management. We seek to acquire properties owned and operated by middle-market businesses and lease the properties back to the operators pursuant to our standard lease form. For the year ended December 31, 2022, approximately 97.3% of our investments were sale-leaseback transactions.
Contractual Base Rent Escalation. As of December 31, 2022, 98.2% of our leases (based on annualized base rent) provided for increases in future base rent at a weighted average rate of 1.6% per year. Rent escalation provisions provide contractually-specified incremental yield on our investments and provide a degree of protection from inflation or a rising interest rate environment.
Smaller, Low Basis Single-Tenant Properties. We generally invest in freestanding "small-box" single-tenant properties. As of December 31, 2022, our average investment per property was $2.4 million (which equals our aggregate investment in our properties (including transaction costs, lease incentives and amounts funded for construction in progress) divided by the number of properties owned at such date), and we believe investments of similar size should allow us to grow our portfolio without concentrating a large amount of capital in individual properties and should allow us to limit our exposure to events that may adversely affect a particular property. Additionally, we believe that many of our properties are fungible and appropriate for multiple commercial uses, which reduces the risk that a particular property may become obsolete and enhances our ability to sell a property if we choose to do so.
Healthy Rent Coverage Ratio and Tenant Financial Reporting. As of December 31, 2022, our portfolio's weighted average rent coverage ratio was 4.0x, and 98.6% of our leases (based on annualized base rent) obligate the tenant to periodically provide us with specified unit-level financial reporting. "Rent coverage ratio" means, as of a specified date, the ratio of (x) tenant-reported or, when unavailable, management's estimate (based on tenant-reported financial information) of annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and cash rent attributable to the leased property (or properties, in the case of a master lease) to (y) the annualized base rental obligation.
2022 Financial and Operating Highlights
•During 2022, we completed $937.4 million of investments, including $793.3 million in 224 property acquisitions and $144.0 million in newly originated loans receivable secured by 49 properties.
•As of December 31, 2022, our total gross investment in real estate was $4.1 billion and we had total debt of $1.4 billion.
•During 2022, we declared distributions totaling $1.075 per share of common stock.
•In August 2022, we completed a follow-on offering of 8,740,000 shares of our common stock, including 1,140,000 shares of common stock purchased by the underwriters pursuant to an option to purchase additional shares raising net proceeds of $192.6 million.
•During 2022, we sold 9,794,137 shares of our common stock under the ATM Program (as defined herein) at a weighted average price per share of $24.00 for gross proceeds of $235.1 million, including 957,453 shares of our common stock that were physically settled for cash in January 2023.
Our Target Market
We are an active investor in single-tenant, net leased commercial real estate. Our target properties are generally freestanding commercial real estate facilities where a middle-market tenant conducts activities on property that are essential to the generation of its sales and profits. We believe that this market is underserved from a capital perspective and therefore offers attractive risk-adjusted returns from an investment perspective.
Within this market, we focus our investment activities on properties leased to tenants engaged in a targeted set of 13 service-oriented or experience-based businesses. We believe that operating properties are the essential venues through which these businesses transact with their customers, and therefore that such properties and businesses are generally more insulated from the competitive pressure of e-commerce than many other businesses where significant activity can take place online.
We focus on properties leased to middle-market companies, which we define as regional and national operators with between 10 and 250 locations and $20 million to $500 million in annual revenue, and we opportunistically invest in properties leased to smaller companies, which we define as regional operators with fewer than 10 locations and less than $20 million in annual revenue. Although it is not our primary investment focus, we will opportunistically consider investing in properties leased to larger companies. While the creditworthiness of most of our targeted tenants is not rated by a nationally recognized statistical rating organization, we seek to invest in properties leased to companies in our targeted middle-market that we determine have attractive credit characteristics and stable operating histories.
Despite the size of the overall commercial retail real estate market, the market for single-tenant, net leased commercial real estate is highly fragmented. In particular, we believe that there is a limited number of participants addressing the long-term capital needs of unrated middle-market and smaller companies. We believe that many publicly traded REITs that invest in net leased properties concentrate their investment activity in properties leased to tenants whose creditworthiness has been rated by a nationally recognized statistical rating organization, which tend to be larger and often publicly traded organizations, with the result that unrated, middle-market and smaller companies are relatively underserved and offer us an opportunity to make investments with attractive risk-adjusted return potential.
Furthermore, we believe that there is strong demand for our net-lease capital solutions among middle-market and smaller owner-operators that own commercial real estate, in part, due to the bank regulatory environment, which, since the turmoil in the housing and mortgage industries from 2007-2009, has generally been characterized by increased scrutiny and regulation. We believe that this environment has made commercial banks less responsive to the long-term capital needs of unrated middle-market and small companies, many of which have historically depended on commercial banks for their financing. Accordingly, we see an attractive opportunity to address capital needs of these companies by offering them an efficient alternative for financing their real estate versus accessing traditional mortgage or bank debt and/or using their own equity.
As a result, while we believe our net-lease financing solutions may be attractive to a wide variety of companies, we believe our most attractive opportunity is owning properties net leased to middle-market and smaller companies that are generally unrated and have less access to efficient sources of long-term capital than larger, credit-rated companies.
Our Competitive Strengths
We believe the following competitive strengths distinguish us from our competitors and allow us to compete effectively in the single-tenant, net-lease market:
•Carefully Constructed Portfolio of Properties Leased to Service-Oriented or Experience-Based Tenants. We have strategically constructed a portfolio that is diversified by tenant, industry, concept and geography and generally avoids exposure to businesses that we believe are subject to pressure from e-commerce. Our properties are generally subject to long-term net leases that we believe provide us with a stable and predictable base of revenue from which to grow our portfolio. As of December 31, 2022, our portfolio consisted of 1,653 properties, with annualized base rent of $297.2 million, which was purposefully selected by our management team in accordance with our focused and disciplined investment strategy. Our portfolio is diversified with 350 tenants operating 538 different concepts across 48 states and in 16 distinct industries. None of our tenants contributed more than 3.4% of our annualized base rent as of December 31, 2022, and our strategy targets a scaled portfolio that, over time, allows us to derive no more than 5.0% of our annualized base rent from any single tenant or more than 1.0% from any single property.
We focus on investing in properties leased to tenants operating in the service-oriented or experience-based businesses noted above. As of December 31, 2022, 93.0% of our annualized base rent was attributable to tenants operating service-oriented and experience-based businesses.
We believe that our portfolio's diversity and our rigorous underwriting decrease the impact on us of an adverse event affecting an individual tenant, industry or region, and our focus on leasing to tenants in industries where operating properties are essential to generating their revenues and profits (and that we believe are well-positioned to withstand competition from e-commerce businesses), increases the stability and predictability of our rental revenue.
•Differentiated Investment Strategy. We seek to acquire and lease freestanding, single-tenant commercial real estate facilities where a tenant services its customers and conducts activities at the property that are essential to the generation of its sales and profits. We primarily seek to invest in properties leased to middle-market companies that we determine have attractive credit characteristics and stable operating histories. We believe middle-market companies are underserved from a capital perspective and that we can offer them attractive real estate financing solutions while allowing us to enter into leases that provide us with attractive risk-adjusted returns. Furthermore, many net lease transactions with middle-market companies involve properties that are individually relatively small, which allows us to avoid concentrating a large amount of capital in individual properties. We maintain close relationships with our tenants, which we believe allows us
to source additional investments and become the capital provider of choice as our tenants' businesses grow and their real estate needs increase.
•Disciplined Underwriting Leading to Strong Portfolio Characteristics. We generally seek to invest in single assets or portfolios of assets through transactions which range in aggregate purchase price from $2 million to $100 million. Our size allows us to focus on investing in a segment of the market that we believe is underserved from a capital perspective and where we can originate or acquire relatively smaller assets on attractive terms that provide meaningful growth to our portfolio. In addition, we seek to invest in commercially desirable properties that are suitable for use by different tenants, offer attractive risk-adjusted returns and possess characteristics that reduce our real estate investment risks. As of December 31, 2022:
•Our leases had a weighted average remaining lease term (based on annualized base rent) of 13.9 years, with only 6.1% of our annualized base rent attributable to leases expiring prior to January 1, 2028;
•Master leases contributed 65.0% of our annualized base rent;
•Our portfolio's weighted average rent coverage ratio was 4.0x, with leases contributing 72.6% of our annualized base rent having rent coverage ratios in excess of 2.0x (excluding leases that do not report unit-level financial information);
•Our portfolio was 99.9% occupied;
•Leases contributing 98.2% of our annualized base rent provide for increases in future annual base rent that generally range from 1.0% to 4.0% annually, with a weighted average annual escalation equal to 1.6% of base rent; and
•Leases contributing 94.9% of annualized base rent were triple-net.
•Growth-Oriented Balance Sheet Scalable Infrastructure. We believe our financial position and existing infrastructure support our external growth strategy. As of December 31, 2022, we had the ability to borrow up to $600.0 million under our $600.0 million senior unsecured revolving credit facility that matures in April 2026.
As of December 31, 2022, we had $1.4 billion of gross debt outstanding, with a weighted average maturity of 5.2 years, and net debt of $1.4 billion. For the year ended December 31, 2022, our net income was $134.7 million, our EBITDAre was $251.4 million and our Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre was $294.8 million. Our ratio of net debt to Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre was 4.6x as of December 31, 2022. Net debt, EBITDAre and Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre are non-GAAP financial measures. For definitions of net debt, EBITDAre and Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre, reconciliations of these measures to total debt and net income, respectively, the most directly comparable financial measures calculated in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States ("GAAP"), and a statement of why our management believes the presentation of these non-GAAP financial measures provide useful information to investors and a discussion of how management uses these measures, see "Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations'—Non-GAAP Financial Measures."
We also maintain an ATM Program and, as of December 31, 2022, we had the ability to sell additional common stock thereunder with an aggregate gross sales price of up to $424.6 million.
•Experienced and Proven Management Team. Our senior management has significant experience in the net lease industry and a track record of growing net lease businesses to significant scale.
Our senior management team has been responsible for our focused and disciplined investment strategy and for developing and implementing our investment sourcing, underwriting, closing and asset management infrastructure, which we believe can support significant investment growth without a proportionate increase in our operating expenses. As of December 31, 2022, 87.6% of our portfolio's annualized base rent was attributable to internally originated sale-leaseback transactions and 85.8% was acquired from parties who had previously engaged in one or more transactions that involved a member of our senior management team (including operators and tenants and other participants in the net lease industry, such as brokers, intermediaries and financing sources). The substantial experience, knowledge and relationships of our senior
leadership team provide us with an extensive network of contacts that we believe allows us to originate attractive investment opportunities and effectively grow our business.
•Scalable Platform Allows for Significant Growth. Building on our senior leadership team's experience in net lease real estate investing, we have developed leading origination, underwriting, financing, and property management capabilities. Our platform is scalable, and we seek to leverage our capabilities to improve our efficiency and processes to continue to seek attractive risk-adjusted growth. While we expect that our general and administrative expenses could increase as our portfolio grows, we expect that such expenses as a percentage of our portfolio and our revenues will decrease over time due to efficiencies and economies of scale. During the years ended December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020, we invested in properties with aggregate investment values of $937.4 million, $974.0 million and $602.8 million, respectively.
•Extensive Tenant Financial Reporting Supports Active Asset Management. We seek to enter into leases that obligate our tenants to periodically provide us with corporate and/or unit-level financial reporting, which we believe enhances our ability to actively monitor our investments, actively evaluate credit risk, negotiate lease renewals and proactively manage our portfolio to protect stockholder value. As of December 31, 2022, leases contributing 98.6% of our annualized base rent required tenants to provide us with specified unit-level financial information.
Our Business and Growth Strategies
Our primary business objective is to maximize stockholder value by generating attractive risk-adjusted returns through owning, managing and growing a diversified portfolio of commercially desirable net lease properties. We intend to pursue our objective through the following business and growth strategies.
•Structure and Manage Our Diverse Portfolio with Focused and Disciplined Underwriting and Risk Management. We seek to maintain the stability of our rental revenue and maximize the long-term return on our investments while continuing our growth by using our focused and disciplined underwriting and risk management expertise. When underwriting assets, we emphasize commercially desirable properties, with strong operating performance, healthy rent coverage ratios and tenants with attractive credit characteristics.
Leasing. In general, we seek to enter into leases with (i) relatively long terms (typically with initial terms of 15 years or more and tenant renewal options); (ii) attractive rent escalation provisions; (iii) healthy rent coverage ratios; and (iv) tenant obligations to periodically provide us with financial information, which provides us with information about the operating performance of the leased property and/or tenant and allows us to actively monitor the security of payments under the lease on an ongoing basis. We strongly prefer to use master lease structures, pursuant to which we lease multiple properties to a single tenant on a unitary (i.e., "all or none") basis. In addition, in the context of our sale-leaseback investments, we generally seek to establish contract rents that are at or below prevailing market rents, which we believe enhances tenant retention and reduces our releasing risk if a lease is rejected in a bankruptcy proceeding or expires.
Diversification. We monitor and manage the diversification of our portfolio in order to reduce the risks associated with adverse developments affecting a particular tenant, property, industry or region. Our strategy targets a portfolio that, over time, will (i) derive no more than 5% of its annualized base from any single tenant or more than 1% of its annualized base rent from any single property, (ii) be primarily leased to tenants operating in service-oriented or experience-based businesses and (iii) avoid significant geographic concentration. While we consider these criteria when making investments, we may be opportunistic in managing our business and make investments that do not meet one or more of these criteria if we believe the opportunity presents an attractive risk-adjusted return.
Asset Management. We are an active asset manager and regularly review each of our properties to evaluate, various factors, including, but not limited to, changes in the business performance at the property, credit of the tenant and local real estate market conditions. Among other things, we use Moody's Analytics RiskCalc ("RiskCalc") to proactively detect credit deterioration. RiskCalc is a model for predicting private company defaults based on Moody's Analytics Credit Research Database. Additionally, we monitor market rents relative to in-place rents and the amount of tenant capital expenditures in order to refine our tenant retention and alternative use assumptions. Our management team utilizes our internal credit diligence to monitor the credit profile of each of our tenants on an ongoing basis. We believe that this proactive approach
enables us to identify and address issues in a timely manner and to determine whether there are properties in our portfolio that are appropriate for disposition.
In addition, as part of our active portfolio management, we may selectively dispose of assets that we conclude do not offer a return commensurate with the investment risk, contribute to unwanted geographic, industry or tenant concentrations, or may be sold at a price we determine is attractive. During the year ended December 31, 2022, we sold 52 properties for net sales proceeds of $155.6 million, including one property that was vacant. We believe that our underwriting processes and active asset management enhance the stability of our rental revenue by reducing default losses and increasing the likelihood of lease renewals.
•Focus on Relationship-Based Sourcing to Grow Our Portfolio by Originating Sale-Leaseback Transactions. We plan to continue our disciplined growth by originating sale-leaseback transactions and opportunistically making acquisitions of properties subject to net leases that contribute to our portfolio’s tenant, industry and geographic diversification. As of December 31, 2022, 87.6% of our portfolio’s annualized base rent was attributable to internally originated sale-leaseback transactions and 85.8% was acquired from parties who had previously engaged in transactions that involved a member of our senior management team (including operators and tenants and other participants in the net lease industry, such as brokers, intermediaries and financing sources). In addition, we seek to enhance our relationships with our tenants to facilitate investment opportunities, including selectively agreeing to reimburse certain of our tenants for development costs at our properties in exchange for contractually specified rent that generally increases proportionally with our funding. We believe our senior management team’s reputation, in-depth market knowledge and extensive network of long-standing relationships in the net lease industry provide us access to an ongoing pipeline of attractive investment opportunities.
•Focus on Middle-Market Companies in Service-Oriented or Experience-Based Businesses. We primarily focus on investing in properties that we lease on a long-term, triple-net basis to middle-market companies that we determine have attractive credit characteristics and stable operating histories. Properties leased to middle-market companies may offer us the opportunity to achieve superior risk-adjusted returns, as a result of our extensive and disciplined credit and real estate analysis, lease structuring and portfolio composition. We believe our capital solutions are attractive to middle-market companies as such companies often have limited financing options, as compared to larger, credit rated organizations. We also believe that, in many cases, smaller transactions with middle-market companies will allow us to maintain and grow our portfolio's diversification. Middle-market companies are often willing to enter into leases with structures and terms that we consider attractive (such as master leases and leases that require ongoing tenant financial reporting) and believe contribute to the stability of our rental revenue.
In addition, we emphasize investment in properties leased to tenants engaged in service-oriented or experience-based businesses, such as car washes, restaurants (primarily quick service restaurants), early childhood education, medical and dental services, convenience stores, automotive services, equipment rental, entertainment and health and fitness, as we believe these businesses are generally more insulated from e-commerce pressure than many others.
•Internal Growth Through Long-Term Triple-Net Leases That Provide for Periodic Rent Escalations. We seek to enter into long-term (typically with initial terms of 15 years or more and tenant renewal options), triple-net leases that provide for periodic contractual rent escalations. As of December 31, 2022, our leases had a weighted average remaining lease term of 13.9 years (based on annualized base rent), with only 6.1% of our annualized base rent attributable to leases expiring prior to January 1, 2028, and 98.2% of our leases (based on annualized base rent) provided for increases in future base rent at a weighted average of 1.6% per year.
•Actively Manage Our Balance Sheet to Maximize Capital Efficiency. We seek to maintain a prudent balance between debt and equity financing and to maintain funding sources that lock in long-term investment spreads and limit interest rate sensitivity. As of December 31, 2022, we had $1.4 billion of gross debt outstanding and $1.4 billion of net debt outstanding. Our net income for the year ended December 31, 2022 was $134.7 million, our EBITDAre was $251.4 million, our Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre was $294.8 million and our ratio of net debt to Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre was 4.6x. Over time, we believe an appropriate ceiling for net debt is generally less than six times our Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre. We have access to multiple sources of debt capital, including, but not limited to, the investment grade-rated unsecured bond market and bank debt, through our revolving credit facility and our unsecured term loan facilities. Net debt,
EBITDAre and Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre are non-GAAP financial measures. See "Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations'—Non-GAAP Financial Measures."
We face competition for acquisitions of real property from other investors, including traded and non-traded public REITs, private equity investors and institutional investment funds. Some of our competitors have greater economies of scale, lower costs of capital, access to more sources of capital, a larger base of operating resources and greater name recognition than we do, and the ability to accept more risk. We also believe that competition for real estate financing comes from middle-market business owners themselves, many of whom have had a historic preference to own, rather than lease, the real estate they use in their businesses. This competition may increase the demand for the types of properties in which we typically invest and, therefore, may reduce the number of suitable investment opportunities available to us and increase the prices paid for such investment properties. This competition will increase if investments in real estate become more attractive relative to other forms of investment.
As a landlord, we compete in the multi-billion dollar commercial real estate market with numerous developers and owners of properties, many of which own properties similar to ours in the same markets in which our properties are located. If our competitors offer space at rental rates below current market rates or below the rental rates we currently charge our tenants, we may lose our tenants or prospective tenants, and we may be pressured to reduce our rental rates or to offer substantial rent abatements, tenant improvement allowances, early termination rights or below-market renewal options in order to retain tenants when our leases expire.
As of December 31, 2022, we had 37 full-time employees. Our staff is mostly comprised of professionals engaged in originating, underwriting and closing investments; portfolio asset management; portfolio servicing (e.g., collections, property tax compliance, etc.); and accounting, financial reporting, cash management and capital markets activities. Women comprise 43% of our employees and hold approximately 47% of our management positions, providing significant leadership at our company, and minorities comprise approximately 23% of our employees and 18% of our management team. Our commitment to diversity also extends to our board of directors, as three of its eight members, or approximately 38%, are women. Additionally, we have a consistent and strong record of hiring veterans of the U.S. military, including our chief executive officer.
We seek to provide a dynamic work environment that promotes the retention and development of our employees, and is a differentiating factor in our ability to attract new talent. We strive to offer our employees attractive and equitable compensation, regular opportunities to participate in professional development activities, outlets for civic engagement and reasonable flexibility to allow a healthy work/life balance.
We value equal opportunity in the workplace and fair employment practices. We have built an inclusive culture that encourages, supports and celebrates our diverse employee population. We endeavor to maintain a workplace that is free from discrimination or harassment on the basis of color, race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or expression, or any other status protected by applicable law. We conduct annual training in an effort to ensure that all employees remain aware of and help prevent harassment and discrimination.
Our compensation program is designed to attract and retain talent, and align our employee’s efforts with the interests of all of our stakeholders. Factors we evaluate in connection with hiring, developing, training, compensating and advancing individuals include, but are not limited to, qualification, performance, skill and experience. Our employees are fairly compensated based on merit, without regard to color, race, sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or expression, or any other status protected by applicable law.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
We believe that responsible and effective corporate governance, a positive corporate culture, good corporate citizenship, and the promotion of sustainability initiatives are critical to our ability to create long-term stockholder value. EPRT is committed to conducting its business in accordance with the highest ethical standards. We take our
responsibilities to all of our stakeholders, including our stockholders, creditors, employees, tenants, and business relationships, very seriously. We are dedicated to being trusted stewards of capital and also providing our employees with a rewarding and dynamic work environment.
Overall, our commitment to ESG and our strategy for pursuing the goals we’ve established to demonstrate that commitment include the following:
a.Accountability and Transparency. Our Board of Directors ("Board") and our management team are committed to strong corporate governance. As stewards of our stockholder’s capital, we are committed to accountability and transparency regarding our ESG efforts;
b.Reducing our Carbon Footprint. Implement sustainability upgrades at our corporate headquarters and our income properties to reduce our carbon footprint;
c.Expanding our Relationships with our Tenants through Sustainability. Implement sustainability upgrades at our properties to positively impact our tenants' operations and prospects for success; and
d.Our People are EPRT. Our diversity is our strength, creating an inclusive work environment is our culture, and all of our employees are owners, thus 100% aligned with our fellow stockholders.
Our ESG goals include the following:
a.Oversight. Maintain strong oversight and visibility over our ESG strategy and initiatives led by our independent and experienced Board, and specifically our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee;
b.Reporting. Publish our inaugural Corporate Responsibility Report during the first quarter of 2023, aligned with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and The Financial Stability Board Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure indices;
c.Measurement. Establish the carbon footprint of our portfolio, specifically our Scope 3 emissions, as we have immaterial Scope 1 and 2 emissions;
d.Structure. Continue to enhance our robust cybersecurity program including using third-party experts to facilitate our system penetration testing;
e.Engagement. Perform a survey of our tenants in 2023 to increase our understanding of their sustainability initiatives, expand our tenant engagement and understand how we can continue to contribute to our tenants' operational effectiveness;
f.Implementation. Continue to implement energy efficiency upgrades throughout our income property portfolio;
g.Equity. Continue to invest in our employees through our various benefit programs and incentive structures that maintain our alignment with our stockholders at an employee level;
h.Diversity. Continue to ensure that diversity is at the forefront of our hiring practices and maintained as a key input to our operations; and
i.Inclusion. Maintain our annual employee survey process to ensure consistent engagement with our team and promote our understanding of our work environment and opportunities for improvement.
Our approach to ESG begins with strong corporate governance. We believe that the structure of our Board, its policies and practices and its oversight role are the overarching indicators of EPRT’s commitment to accountability regarding ESG. We are committed to managing our Company for the benefit of all of our stakeholders and achieving long-term stockholder value. Maintaining effective corporate governance is a critical component of our Company.
Importantly, we have a Board that is diverse and independent, notably including, but not limited to, these key attributes:
a.Independence: Nearly 90% (all but one) of our Board is comprised of independent directors.
b.Tenure: We value board refreshment, and the average tenure of our Board is less than 4 years.
c.Diversity: We demonstrably value gender and racial/ethnic diversity on our Board; nearly 40% of our Board is female and 13% (1 director) represent an ethnic minority.
We value diversity, not simply gender or minority representation, but experience and professional qualifications. Our Board leads by example in our ESG efforts.
In addition, the following are additional elements of our corporate governance that are key considerations underlying our commitment to ESG:
a.We Have an Independent Non-Executive Board Chairman. We separate the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and have an independent non-executive Chairman of the Board.
b.Our Board Committees Are Fully Independent. Each member of our Audit, Compensation and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committees is an independent director.
c.Our Independent Directors Meet Without Management. Our independent directors hold regular executive sessions without management present.
d.We Do Not Have a Staggered Board. We hold annual elections for all our directors.
e.We Have an Active and Engaged Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. Our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee plays an active role in managing our corporate governance and our risk management function, including environmental and sustainability initiatives, and developing, adopting and monitoring our corporate policies, processes and procedures in compliance with applicable rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”).
f.We Assess Board Performance. We conduct annual assessments of our Board and Board committees.
g.Whistleblower Protection. We have implemented and updated our “whistleblower” policy that allows directors, officers and employees to file reports on a confidential and anonymous basis regarding issues of impropriety, violations of law, violations of corporate or other policies, or unethical business practices.
h.Our Stockholders Have the Authority to Amend our Bylaws. In November of 2020, we adopted amended and restated bylaws that permit stockholders, by the affirmative vote of a majority of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter, to amend our bylaws, which power was previously vested exclusively in our Board.
Ethical Business Practices. Our Board has adopted Corporate Governance Guidelines and a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics that applies to all of our officers, directors and employees. In addition, we have adopted other business and workplace policies that apply to all of our directors, officers, employees, vendors and service providers that seek to create a culture that values high ethical standards, including integrity, honesty,
transparency and compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. In particular the following policies, all of which are available on our website, reflect our commitment to ethical business practices:
b.Insider Trading Policy;
c.Human Rights Policy;
d.Executive Compensation Clawback Policy; and
e.Vendor Code of Conduct.
Transparency in our Reporting and Disclosures. We are committed to being a leader in providing detailed public disclosure about our business, promoting transparency and accountability. Our commitment to robust and transparent disclosures includes, but is not limited to, our filings with the SEC, our quarterly earnings releases and the associated supplemental information reporting packages, our corporate responsibility report, and our investor presentations.
Investor Engagement. We value investor input and are committed to maintaining an active dialogue with our investors through extensive outreach. During 2022, we held over 165 virtual or face-to-face meetings with investors, in addition to attending 11 industry/REIT conferences.
Stock Ownership Guidelines. We have adopted a stock ownership policy applicable to our executive officers and independent directors under which each individual is expected to maintain beneficial ownership of shares of our common stock (including securities convertible into or exercisable or exchangeable for common stock) with a value equal to a specified multiple of their annual base cash compensation.
No Hedging or Pledging. We have policies that prohibit our officers, directors and employees from hedging their investment in our stock, and prohibit our directors and executive officers from pledging or otherwise encumbering their investment in our securities as collateral for indebtedness.
Opted out of MUTA. We have opted out of certain provisions of the Maryland General Corporation Law that may make it more difficult for or prevent a change in control. We have opted out of the control share acquisition and the business combination statutes in the Maryland General Corporation Law, and we may not opt back into these without stockholder approval. In addition, we are prohibited from adopting certain takeover protections, including classifying the Board, without first obtaining stockholder approval.
No “Poison Pill.” We do not maintain a stockholder rights plan (commonly referred to as a “poison pill”). We will not adopt one in the future without (a) the approval of our stockholders or (b) seeking ratification from our stockholders within 12 months after adoption of the plan if the Board determines, in the exercise of its duties under applicable law, that it is in the Company’s best interest to adopt a rights plan without the delay of seeking prior stockholder approval.
One of the key responsibilities of our Board is informed oversight of our risk management process. Our Board administers this oversight function directly, with support from its three standing committees, the Audit Committee, the Compensation Committee and the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, each of which is comprised solely of non-employee, independent directors and addresses risks specific to its respective areas of oversight.
Audit Committee. The principal functions of our Audit Committee include oversight relating to:
a.The integrity of our financial statements;
b.Our compliance with legal and regulatory requirements;
c.The evaluation of the qualifications and independence of our independent registered public accounting firm; and
d.The performance of our internal audit function.
The Audit Committee is also responsible for engaging, evaluating, compensating and overseeing an independent registered public accounting firm charged with auditing our financial statements, reviewing the
independence of the independent registered public accounting firm, considering the range of audit and non-audit fees and reviewing the adequacy of our internal accounting controls.
Compensation Committee. The principal functions of our Compensation Committee include:
a.Assisting the independent directors in discharging the Board’s responsibilities relating to compensation of the Company’s executive officers and directors and approving individual executive officer compensation intended to attract, retain and appropriately reward employees in order to motivate their performance in the achievement of the Company’s business objectives and align their interests with the long-term interests of the Company’s stockholders; and
b.Reviewing and recommending to the Board compensation plans, policies and programs.
Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. The principal functions of our Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee include:
a.Identifying, evaluating and recommending individuals qualified to become members of the Board;
b.Selecting, or recommending that the Board select, the director nominees to stand for election at each annual meeting of stockholders or to fill vacancies on the Board;
c.Developing and recommending to the Board a set of corporate governance guidelines applicable to the Company;
d.Direct oversight of the Company’s ESG strategy and implementation of initiatives, including but not limited to, the Company's commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability, corporate social responsibility and effective corporate governance; and
e.Overseeing the annual performance evaluation of the Board and its committees and management.
In addition, the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee monitors our overall risk management process at an enterprise level, and periodically evaluates various risks and the processes in place to monitor and mitigate such risks, including portfolio risks, operational risks, balance sheet risks and human capital risks. As a part of its oversight function, the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee also reviews quarterly management reports addressing various matters including ESG and governance matters, and our progress in achieving related objectives.
We recognize that our commercial real estate assets can substantially impact the environment and the health and safety of building occupants. We believe that being aware of and addressing these issues are important aspects of maintaining a successful and sustainable business. Our commitment to environmental stewardship starts at our corporate headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, and extends to our portfolio of income-producing properties, our investment and leasing practices, and to our tenants. We are committed to expanding and enhancing our efforts to incorporate sustainability initiatives in our corporate governance and applicable business processes, including underwriting our investments, asset management activities, and disclosure and reporting practices.
Our position on sustainability is that reducing our carbon footprint and, where possible, that of our tenants is a strategic imperative, not simply because we believe it’s the right thing to do, but because we believe it is consistent with our core business objective of maximizing stockholder value and it also provides opportunities for us to help our tenants produce operating efficiencies and customer attraction opportunities. We are committed to environmental stewardship and operating our business in a sustainable manner. Accordingly, our investment, leasing and asset management practices are informed by our commitment to operate in a sustainable manner that we believe will support long-term value.
We are focused on advancing and continuing to develop our sustainability agenda.
Our Properties. As a net-lease REIT, we do not control the day-to-day operations and activities at our properties that are leased to tenants. Generally, our tenants have exclusive control over, and the ability to institute energy conservation and environmental management programs at, our properties. While we are not able to mandate the sustainability practices of our tenants, our leases generally require our tenants to fully comply with all
applicable environmental laws, rules and regulations, and our asset management department actively monitors our properties in an effort to ensure that tenants are meeting their obligations with respect to environmental matters. Prior to acquiring a property, we obtain a Phase I environmental site assessment to seek to identify any environmental issues and structure the related lease accordingly.
Our Green Lease. The properties in our portfolio are generally leased to our tenants under long-term triple net leases, which give our tenants exclusive control over and the ability to institute energy conservation and environmental management programs at our properties. In December 2021, we modified our standard lease form, which we use in our sale-leaseback transactions, to provide us with the contractual right to make sustainability improvements to our properties and to require our tenants to periodically provide us, at least annually, with information regarding their resource consumption, such as electricity and water usage (the “Green Lease”). We believe that being aware of and, to the extent that we are able, addressing environmental issues are important aspects of maintaining a business that is successful and sustainable over the long-term. Accordingly, we believe that supporting our tenants’ efforts to implement sustainability initiatives enhances their operations and prospects for success and therefore our own. As of December 31, 2022, approximately 80% of our 299 new property investments in 2022 were subject to our Green Lease.
Sustainability Partnership. In September 2022, we entered into a partnership with Budderﬂy Inc. (“Budderfly”), a growing Energy-Efﬁciency-as-a-Service ("EEaaS") provider in the United States. The Essential Sustainability Program intends to deploy signiﬁcant energy infrastructure improvements aimed to improve the energy efﬁciency at our buildings and to deliver operating savings to our tenants through a guaranteed monthly utility usage reduction. Through the Essential Sustainability Program, we will invest capital in energy-efﬁcient technologies and equipment upgrades that Budderﬂy will install and manage at no cost to our tenants. A 6% energy cost savings per month is passed through to the tenant. The sustainability upgrades will include, but are not limited to: the installation of LED lighting and lighting controls, higher efﬁciency HVAC units along with HVAC controls and monitoring, refrigeration controls and monitoring, solar solutions, and net metering and controls through Budderﬂy’s Facility Smart Grid System. As part of the Essential Sustainability Partnership, for each agreement our tenants enter into with Budderfly and for which we invest the capital for the energy efficiency upgrades, Budderfly will identify, apply for and obtain payments, grants, credits or similar financial incentives related to the upgrades which will contribute to the return we achieve on our investment.
Our Headquarters. In addition to assisting our tenants with their sustainability initiatives, we recognize that our Company has a direct carbon footprint at space occupied by us that we are committed to reducing. We emphasize sustainability at our corporate headquarters, lease space in a building that is certified under the EPA’s Energy Star certification program and implement sustainability measures that seek to reduce our environmental impact and carbon footprint, such as:
a.Using energy efficient lighting and automated lighting control systems;
b.Minimizing HVAC and heating run times;
c.Maintaining an active single-stream recycling program for paper, plastic and cans;
d.Purchasing Energy Star certified computers, monitors and printers;
e.Using Energy Star power management settings on our computers and monitors;
f.Disposing all ink cartridges utilizing the manufacturer’s recycling program; and
g.Providing water dispensing machines and eliminating the use of plastic and styrofoam cups and plastic water bottles.
Social Matters: Company Culture
We seek to provide a dynamic, rewarding work environment that promotes the retention and career development of our employees and is a differentiating factor in our ability to attract new talent. We strive to offer our employees attractive and equitable compensation, regular opportunities to participate in professional development activities, outlets for civic engagement, and reasonable flexibility to allow a healthy work-life balance. Our employees further our commitment to social responsibility through their efforts to become involved in outside organizations that promote education, environmental and social well-being.
We are committed to maximizing value for our stockholders and believe it’s essential for all of our employees to be aligned in that commitment. For that reason, all of our employees participate in the annual opportunity to beneﬁt from our equity incentive program. All of our employees are stockholders in EPRT.
We have built a diverse and inclusive culture that encourages, supports and celebrates our employees' diverse voices and experiences. We believe a diverse employee base enhances our execution as a company, encourages innovative thinking, and increases alignment with our tenants and the community around us. The following charts highlight our workforce diversity as of December 31, 2022:
Diversity, equity and inclusion are key to executing our business plan and generating differentiated results. Women comprise 43% of our employees and hold approximately 47% of our management positions, providing significant leadership at our company, and minorities comprise approximately 23% of our employees and 18% of our management team.
We value equal opportunity in the workplace and fair employment practices. We have a talented and diverse group of employees, and we are committed to maintaining an inclusive and rewarding work environment. Among the programs and benefits that we offer employees are:
a.Competitive market-based compensation;
b.We cover nearly 100% of the cost of health benefits for each employee as part of providing comprehensive medical, dental and vision insurance for all employees and their families;
c.A 401(k) plan with a matching contribution of 100% up to 6% of amounts deferred;
d.We also utilize a “personal time off” (or PTO) program for our employees, which allows for, at a minimum, four weeks of paid time off per year per employee;
e.Access to a free onsite gym;
f.Continuing education reimbursement;
g.Paid internship program; and
h.Ten paid company holidays.
Our commitment to maintaining a positive work environment extends beyond offering attractive compensation and opportunities for professional development. We actively promote a dynamic and inclusive work environment by:
•Employee Engagement. We hold weekly all-hands staff meetings virtually or at our corporate headquarters, where developments in, and objectives of, our business are broadly communicated. After each quarter, we hold a company-wide meeting, where we summarize overall corporate achievements and acknowledge significant employee contributions. At our weekly and quarterly meetings, all employees are encouraged to provide input into the development of our business and voice any suggestions or concerns that they may have.
•Team Building. We believe that fostering a collegial work environment is an important element of driving long-term success. Accordingly, we strive to develop a supportive work environment through various events, such as Company-sponsored sports teams, an annual summer outing and a holiday celebration near year end, which are designed to foster an increasing level of collegiality among our employees and develop a shared sense of mission.
•Civic Engagement. We are committed to improving the community around us, and we believe that giving back is an important part of being a responsible corporate citizen. We actively support many organizations in the greater Princeton, New Jersey area surrounding our corporate headquarters, and we encourage our employees to volunteer with organizations that are meaningful to them. We have been proud to support organizations such as:
a.The Capital Area YMCA;
b.The Victor Green Foundation (an organization that provides opportunity for underserved youth, by focusing on teaching and encouraging the value of continuing education, physical fitness and wellness and a positive character);
c.Better Beginnings Child Development Center (an organization that provides affordable childcare for working parents); and
d.Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (an organization that seeks to cure childhood cancer and support families with children battling cancer).
Our tenants are generally contractually required to maintain liability and property insurance coverage for the properties they lease from us pursuant to triple-net leases. Our leases generally require our tenants to name us (and any of our lenders that have a mortgage on the property leased by the tenant) as additional insureds on their liability policies and additional named insured and/or loss payee (or mortgagee, in the case of our lenders) on their property policies. Depending on the location of the property, other losses of a catastrophic nature, such as those caused by earthquakes and floods, may be covered by insurance policies that are held by our tenant with limitations such as large deductibles or co-payments that a tenant may not be able to meet. In addition, other losses of a catastrophic nature, such as those caused by wind/hail, hurricanes, terrorism or acts of war, may be uninsurable or not economically insurable. If there is damage to our properties that is not covered by insurance and such properties are subject to recourse indebtedness, we will continue to be liable for the indebtedness, even if these properties are irreparably damaged. See "Item 1A. Risk Factor-"Risks Related to Our Business and Properties-Insurance on our properties may not adequately cover all losses and uninsured losses could materially and adversely affect us."
In addition to being a named insured on our tenants' liability and property insurance policies, we separately maintain commercial insurance policies providing general liability and umbrella coverages associated with our portfolio. We also maintain full property coverage on all untenanted properties and other property coverage as may be required by our lenders, which are not required to be carried by our tenants under our leases.
Regulation and Requirements
Our properties are subject to various laws, ordinances and regulations, including those relating to fire and safety requirements, and affirmative and negative covenants and, in some instances, common area obligations. Compliance with applicable requirements may require modifications to our properties, and the failure to comply with applicable requirements could result in the imposition of fines or an award of damages to private litigants, as well as the incurrence of the costs of making modifications to attain compliance. Our tenants have primary responsibility for compliance with these requirements pursuant to our leases. We believe that each of our properties has the necessary permits and approvals.
Federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations regulate, and impose liability for, releases of hazardous or toxic substances, hazardous waste or petroleum products into the environment. Under various of these laws and regulations, a current or previous owner, operator or tenant of real estate may be required to investigate and clean up hazardous or toxic substances, hazardous wastes or petroleum product releases or threats of releases at the property, and may be held liable to a government entity or to third parties for property damage and for investigation, clean-up and monitoring costs incurred by those parties in connection with the actual or threatened contamination. These laws may impose clean-up responsibility and liability without regard to fault, or whether or not the owner, operator or tenant knew of or caused the presence of the contamination. The liability under these laws may be joint and several for the full amount of the investigation, clean-up and monitoring costs incurred or to be incurred or actions to be undertaken, although a party held jointly and severally liable may seek to obtain
contributions from other identified, solvent, responsible parties of their fair share toward these costs. These costs may be substantial, and can exceed the value of the property. In addition, some environmental laws may create a lien on the contaminated site in favor of the government for damages and costs it incurs in connection with the contamination. As the owner or operator of real estate, we also may be liable under common law to third parties for damages and injuries resulting from environmental contamination present at, or emanating from, the real estate. The presence of contamination, or the failure to properly remediate contamination, on a property may adversely affect the ability of the owner, operator or tenant to sell or rent that property or to borrow using the property as collateral, and may adversely impact our investment in that property.
Some of our properties contain, have contained, or are adjacent to or near other properties that have contained or currently contain storage tanks for the storage of petroleum products or other hazardous or toxic substances. Similarly, some of our properties were used in the past for commercial or industrial purposes, or are currently used for commercial purposes, that involve or involved the use of petroleum products or other hazardous or toxic substances, the generation and storage of hazardous waste, or that are adjacent to or near properties that have been or are used for similar commercial or industrial purposes. These operations create a potential for the release of petroleum products, hazardous waste or other hazardous or toxic substances, and we could potentially be required to pay to clean up any contamination. In addition, environmental laws regulate a variety of activities that can occur on a property, including the storage of petroleum products, hazardous waste, or other hazardous or toxic substances, air emissions, water discharges, hazardous waste generation, and exposure to lead-based paint. Such laws may impose fines or penalties for violations, and may require permits or other governmental approvals to be obtained for the operation of a business involving such activities. In addition, as an owner or operator of real estate, we can be liable under common law to third parties for damages and injuries resulting from the presence or release of petroleum products, hazardous waste, or other hazardous or toxic substances present at, or emanating from, the real estate. As a result of the foregoing, we could be materially and adversely affected.
Environmental laws also govern the presence, maintenance and removal of asbestos-containing material ("ACM"). Federal regulations require building owners and those exercising control over a building's management to identify and warn, through signs and labels, of potential hazards posed by workplace exposure to installed ACM in their building. The regulations also have employee training, record keeping and due diligence requirements pertaining to ACM. Significant fines can be assessed for violation of these regulations. As a result of these regulations, building owners and those exercising control over a building's management may be subject to an increased risk of personal injury lawsuits under common law by workers and others exposed to ACM. The regulations may affect the value of a building containing ACM in which we have invested. Federal, state and local laws and regulations also govern the removal, encapsulation, disturbance, handling and/or disposal of ACM when those materials are in poor condition or in the event of construction, remodeling, renovation or demolition of a building. These laws may impose liability for improper handling or a release into the environment of ACM and may provide for fines to, and for third parties to seek recovery from, owners or operators of real properties for personal injury or improper work exposure associated with ACM.
When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth may occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or is not addressed over a period of time. Some molds may produce airborne toxins or irritants. Indoor air quality issues can also stem from inadequate ventilation, chemical contamination from indoor or outdoor sources, and other biological contaminants such as pollen, viruses and bacteria. Indoor exposure to airborne toxins or irritants above certain levels can be alleged to cause a variety of adverse health effects and symptoms, including allergic or other reactions. As a result, the presence of significant mold or other airborne contaminants at any of our properties could require us to undertake a costly remediation program to contain or remove the mold or other airborne contaminants from the affected property or increase indoor ventilation. In addition, the presence of significant mold or other airborne contaminants could expose us to liability from our tenants, employees of our tenants or others if property damage or personal injury occurs.
Before completing any property acquisition, we obtain environmental assessments in order to identify potential environmental concerns at the property. These assessments are carried out in accordance with the Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments (ASTM Practice E 1527-13) as set by ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, and generally include a physical site inspection, a review of relevant federal, state and local environmental and health agency database records, one or more interviews with appropriate site-related personnel, review of the property's chain of title and review of historical aerial photographs and other information on past uses of the property. These assessments are limited in scope. If, however, recommended in the initial assessments, we may undertake additional assessments such as soil and/or groundwater samplings or other limited subsurface investigations and ACM or mold surveys to test for substances
of concern. A prior owner or operator of a property or historic operations at our properties may have created a material environmental condition that is not known to us or the independent consultants preparing the site assessments. Material environmental conditions may have arisen after the review was completed or may arise in the future, and future laws, ordinances or regulations may impose material additional environmental liability. If environmental concerns are not satisfactorily resolved in any initial or additional assessments, we may obtain environmental insurance policies to insure against potential environmental risk or loss depending on the type of property, the availability and cost of the insurance and various other factors we deem relevant (i.e., an environmental occurrence affects one of our properties where our lessee may not have the financial capability to honor its indemnification obligations to us). Our ultimate liability for environmental conditions may exceed the policy limits on any environmental insurance policies we obtain, if any.
Generally, our leases require the lessee to comply with environmental law and provide that the lessee will indemnify us for any loss or expense we incur as a result of lessee's violation of environmental law or the presence, use or release of hazardous materials on our property attributable to the lessee. If our lessees do not comply with environmental law, or we are unable to enforce the indemnification obligations of our lessees, our results of operations would be adversely affected.
We cannot predict what other environmental legislation or regulations will be enacted in the future, how existing or future laws or regulations will be administered or interpreted or what environmental conditions may be found to exist on the properties in the future. Compliance with existing and new laws and regulations may require us or our tenants to spend funds to remedy environmental problems. If we or our tenants were to become subject to significant environmental liabilities, we could be materially and adversely affected.
Our headquarters are located at 902 Carnegie Center Blvd., Suite 520, Princeton, New Jersey, 08540, where we lease approximately 13,453 square feet of office space from an unaffiliated third party. Our telephone number is (609) 436-0619 and our website is www.essentialproperties.com. Information contained on or hyperlinked from our website is not incorporated by reference into and should not be considered part of this Annual Report or our other filings with the the SEC.
We electronically file with the SEC our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Current Reports on Form 8-K, pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. You may obtain these reports and any amendments thereto free of charge on our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC, or by sending an email message to email@example.com.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
There are many factors that may adversely affect us, some of which are beyond our control. The occurrence of any of the following risks could materially and adversely impact our financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and liquidity, prospects, the market price of our common stock, and our ability to, among other things, service our debt and to make distributions to our stockholders. Some statements in this report including statements in the following risk factors constitute forward-looking statements. See "Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements."
Risks Related to Our Business and Properties
We are subject to risks related to the ownership of commercial real estate that could adversely impact the value of our properties.
Factors beyond our control can affect the performance and value of our properties. Our performance is subject to risks incident to the ownership of commercial real estate, including: the possible inability to collect rents from tenants due to financial hardship, including tenant bankruptcies; changes in local real estate conditions and tenant demand for our properties; changes in consumer trends and preferences that reduce the demand for products and services offered by our tenants; adverse changes in national, regional and local economic conditions; inability to re-lease or sell properties upon expiration or termination of leases; environmental risks; the subjectivity and volatility of real estate valuations and the relative illiquidity of real estate investments compared to many other financial assets, which may limit our ability to modify our portfolio promptly in response to changes in economic or other conditions; changes in laws and governmental regulations, including those governing real estate usage and
zoning; acts of God, including natural disasters, which may result in uninsured losses; and acts of war or terrorism, including terrorist attacks.
Adverse changes in the U.S., global and local markets and related economic and supply chain conditions may materially and adversely affect us and the ability of our tenants to make rental payments to us.
Our results of operations, as well as the results of operations of our tenants, are sensitive to changes in U.S., global and local regions or markets that impact our tenants’ businesses. Adverse changes or developments in U.S., global or regional economic or supply chain conditions may impact our tenants’ financial condition, which may adversely impact their ability to make rental payments to us and may also impact their current or future leasing practices. During periods of supply chain disruption or economic slowdown and declining demand for real estate, we may experience a general decline in rents or increased rates of default under our leases. A lack of demand for rental space could adversely affect our ability to maintain our current tenants and attract new tenants, which may affect our growth, profitability and ability to pay dividends.
Our business is dependent upon our tenants successfully operating their businesses, and their failure to do so could materially and adversely affect us.
The success of our investments is materially dependent on the financial stability and operating performance of our tenants. The success of any one of our tenants is dependent on the location of the leased property, its individual business and its industry, which could be adversely affected by poor management, economic conditions in general, changes in consumer trends and preferences that decrease demand for a tenant's products or services or other factors over which neither they nor we have control.
At any given time, any tenant may experience a downturn in its business that may weaken its operating results or the overall financial condition of individual properties or its business as whole. As a result, a tenant may delay lease commencement, fail to make rental payments when due, decline to extend a lease upon its expiration, become insolvent or declare bankruptcy. We depend on our tenants to operate the properties leased from us in a manner which generates revenues sufficient to allow them to meet their obligations to us, including their obligations to pay rent, maintain certain insurance coverage, pay real estate taxes and maintain the properties in a manner so as not to jeopardize their operating licenses or regulatory status. The ability of our tenants to fulfill their obligations under our leases generally depends, to a significant degree, upon the overall profitability of their operations. Cash flow generated by certain tenant businesses may not be sufficient for a tenant to meet its obligations to us. We could be materially and adversely affected if a number of our tenants were unable to meet their obligations to us.
Our assessment that certain businesses are more insulated from e-commerce pressure than many others may prove to be incorrect, and changes in macroeconomic trends may adversely affect our tenants, either of which could impair our tenants' ability to make rental payments to us and materially and adversely affect us.
Technology and business conditions, particularly in the retail industry, are rapidly changing, and our tenants may be adversely affected by technological innovation, changing consumer preferences and competition from non-traditional sources. Businesses previously thought to be internet resistant, such as the retail grocery industry, have proven to be susceptible to competition from e-commerce. To the extent our tenants face increased competition from non-traditional competitors, such as internet vendors, some of which may have different business models and larger profit margins, their businesses could suffer. There can be no assurance that our tenants will be successful in meeting any new competition, and a deterioration in our tenants’ businesses could impair their ability to meet their lease obligations to us and materially and adversely affect us.
Properties occupied by a single tenant pursuant to a single-tenant lease subject us to significant risk of tenant default.
Our strategy focuses primarily on investing in single-tenant triple-net leased properties throughout the United States. The financial failure of, or default in payment by, a single tenant under its lease is likely to cause a significant or complete reduction in our rental revenue from that property and a reduction in the value of the property. This risk is magnified in situations where we lease multiple properties to a single tenant under a master lease. The default of a tenant that leases multiple properties from us or its decision not to renew its master lease upon expiration could materially and adversely affect us.
Periodically, we have experienced, and we may experience in the future, a decline in the fair value of our real estate assets, resulting in impairment charges that impact our financial condition and results of operations.
A decline in the fair market value of our long-lived assets may require us to recognize an impairment against such assets (as defined by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”)) if certain conditions or circumstances related to an asset were to change and we were to determine that, with respect to any such asset, the cash flows no longer support the carrying value of the asset. The fair value of our long-lived assets depends on market conditions, including estimates of future demand for these assets, and the revenues that can be generated from such assets. When such a determination is made, we recognize the estimated unrealized losses through earnings and write down the depreciated cost of such assets to a new cost basis, based on the fair value of such assets on the date they are considered to be impaired. Such impairment charges reflect non-cash losses at the time of recognition, and subsequent dispositions or sales of such assets could further affect our future losses or gains, as they are based on the difference between the sales price received and the adjusted depreciated cost of such assets at the time of sale.
Geographic, industry and tenant concentrations reduce the diversity of our portfolio and make us more susceptible to adverse economic or regulatory developments in those areas or industries.
Geographic, industry and tenant concentrations expose us to greater economic or regulatory risks than if we owned a more diverse portfolio. Our business includes substantial holdings in the following states as of December 31, 2022 (based on annualized base rent): Texas (13.1%), Georgia (7.0%), Ohio (6.7%), Florida (6.5%) and Wisconsin (4.4%). We are susceptible to adverse developments in the economic or regulatory environments of the geographic areas in which we own substantial assets (or in which we may develop a substantial concentration of assets in the future), such as COVID-19 pandemic surges and measures intended to mitigate its spread, business layoffs or downsizing, industry slowdowns, relocations of businesses, increases in real estate and other taxes or costs of complying with governmental regulations. As of December 31, 2022, leases representing approximately 22.6% of our annualized base rent were with tenants in industries that have been particularly adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including entertainment (7.9% of annualized base rent), casual and family dining (8.7% of annualized base rent), health and fitness (3.9% of annualized base rent), movie theaters (1.4% of annualized base rent) and home furnishings (0.7% of annualized base rent). Accordingly, to the extent the pandemic measures intended to mitigate its spread or changed consumer preferences continue to adversely affect these industries, our tenants in these industries could fail to meet their obligations to us, and we could be required to provide further tenant concessions.
As of December 31, 2022, our five largest tenants contributed 10.3% of our annualized base rent, and our ten largest tenants contributed 18.0% of our annualized base rent. If one of these tenants, or another tenant that occupies a significant portion of our properties or whose lease payments represent a significant portion of our rental revenue, were to experience financial weakness or file for bankruptcy, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and liquidity, and prospects.
As we continue to acquire properties, our portfolio may become more concentrated by geographic area, industry or tenant. If our portfolio becomes less diverse, our business will be more sensitive to the general economic downturn in a particular geographic area, to changes in trends affecting a particular industry and to the financial weakness, bankruptcy or insolvency of fewer tenants.
The vast majority of our properties are leased to unrated tenants whose credit is evaluated through our internal underwriting and credit analysis. However, the tools we use to measure credit quality, such as property-level rent coverage ratio, may not be accurate.
The vast majority of our properties are leased to unrated tenants whose credit is evaluated through our internal underwriting and credit analysis. Substantially all of our tenants are required to provide financial information to us periodically or, in some instances, at our request. As of December 31, 2022, leases contributing 98.6% of our annualized base rent required tenants to provide us with specified unit-level financial information and leases contributing 98.9% of our annualized base rent required tenants to provide us with corporate-level financial information.
We analyze the creditworthiness of our tenants using Moody’s Analytics RiskCalc, which provides an estimated default frequency (“EDF”) and a “shadow rating”, and a lease's property-level rent coverage ratio. Our
methods may not adequately assess the risk of an investment. An EDF score and a shadow rating are not the same as, and may not be as indicative of creditworthiness as, a rating published by a nationally recognized statistical rating organization. Our calculations of EDFs, shadow ratings and rent coverage ratios are unaudited and are based on financial information provided to us by our tenants and prospective tenants without independent verification on our part, and we assume the appropriateness of estimates and judgments that were made by the party preparing the financial information. If our assessment of credit quality proves to be inaccurate, we may be subject to defaults, and our cash flows may be less stable. The ability of an unrated tenant to meet its obligations to us may be more speculative than that of a rated tenant.
We may be unable to renew expiring leases with the existing tenants or re-lease the spaces to new tenants on favorable terms or at all.
Our results of operations depend to a significant degree on our ability to continue to lease our properties, including renewing expiring leases, leasing vacant space and re-leasing space in properties where leases are expiring and leasing vacant space. As of December 31, 2022, our occupancy was 99.9% and leases representing approximately 0.4% of our annualized base rent as of such date will expire prior to 2024. Current tenants may decline to renew leases and we may not be able to find replacement tenants. We cannot guarantee that leases that are renewed or new leases will have terms that are as economically favorable to us as the expiring leases, or that substantial rent abatements, tenant improvement allowances, early termination rights or below-market renewal options will not be offered to retain tenants or attract new tenants or that we will be able to lease a property at all. We may experience significant costs in connection with re-leasing a significant number of our properties, which could materially and adversely affect us.
The tenants that occupy our properties compete in industries that depend upon discretionary spending by consumers. A reduction in the willingness or ability of consumers to physically patronize and use their discretionary income in the businesses of our tenants and potential tenants could adversely impact our tenants’ business and thereby adversely impact our ability to collect rents and reduce the demand for our properties.
Most of our portfolio is leased to tenants operating service-oriented or experience-based businesses at our properties. As of December 31, 2022, the largest industries in our portfolio were restaurants (including quick service and casual and family dining), car washes, early childhood education, medical and dental services, automotive services, entertainment (including movie theaters), convenience stores, and equipment rental and sales. As of December 31, 2022, tenants operating in those industries represented approximately 84.9% of our annualized base rent. EquipmentShare, Captain D's, Chicken N Pickle, WhiteWater Express Car Wash, Festival Foods, Mister Car Wash, Spare Time, The Nest Schools, Zaxby's and Crunch Fitness represent the largest concepts in our portfolio. These types of businesses were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, principally due to store closures or limitations on operations (which may be government-mandated or voluntary) and reduced economic activity. While restrictions have generally been lifted and many of our tenants' businesses have generally recovered from pandemic-induced declines, it is unclear if restrictions will be reinstituted in the future. The success of most of these businesses depends on the willingness of consumers to physically patronize their businesses and use discretionary income to purchase their products or services. To the extent the COVID-19 pandemic causes a secular change in consumer behavior that reduces patronage of service-based and/or experience-based businesses, many of our tenants would be adversely affected and their ability to meet their obligations to us could be further impaired. Additional adverse economic conditions and other developments that discourage consumer spending, such as high unemployment levels, wage stagnation, interest rates, inflation, tax rates and fuel and energy costs, may have an impact on the results of operations and financial conditions of our tenants and their ability to pay rent to us.
Our ability to realize future rent increases on some of our leases may vary depending on changes in the CPI.
The vast majority of our leases provide for periodic contractual rent escalations. As of December 31, 2022, leases contributing 98.2% of our annualized base rent provided for increases in future annual base rent, generally ranging from 1.0% to 4.0% annually, with a weighted average annual escalation equal to 1.6% of base rent. Although many of our rent escalators increase rent at a fixed amount on fixed dates, approximately 3.0% of our rent escalators relate to an increase in the CPI over a specified period. During periods of low inflation or deflation, small increases or decreases in the CPI will subject us to the risk of receiving lower rental revenue than we otherwise would have been entitled to receive if our rent escalators were based on higher fixed percentages or amounts. Conversely, during periods of relatively high inflation, fixed rate rent increases may be lower than the rate of inflation, resulting in a deterioration of the real return on our assets. Recently, numerous measures of inflation have
been relatively high, and our fixed rent escalators have not resulted in increases that equal or exceed the rate of inflation. Similarly, to the extent our tenants are unable to increase the prices they charge to their customers in response to any rent increases, their ability to meet their rental payment and other obligations to us could be reduced.
Inflation may materially and adversely affect us and our tenants.
While our tenants are generally obligated to pay property-level expenses relating to the properties they lease from us (e.g., maintenance, insurance and property taxes), we incur other expenses, such as general and administrative expense, interest expense relating to our debt (some of which bears interest at floating rates) and carrying costs for vacant properties. These expenses have generally increased in the current inflationary environment, and such increases have, in some instances, exceeded any increase in revenue we receive under our leases. Additionally, increased inflation may have an adverse impact on our tenants if increases in their operating expenses exceed increases in their revenue, which may adversely affect the tenants' ability to pay rent owed to us and meet other lease obligations, such as paying property taxes and insurance and maintenance costs.
Some of our tenants operate under franchise or license agreements, and, if they are terminated or not renewed prior to the expiration of their leases with us, that would likely impair their ability to pay us rent.
As of December 31, 2022, tenants contributing 11.9% of our annualized base rent operated under franchise or license agreements. Often, our tenants’ franchise or license agreements have terms that end prior to the expiration dates of the properties they lease from us. In addition, a tenant's rights as a franchisee or licensee typically may be terminated and the tenant may be precluded from competing with the franchisor or licensor upon termination. Usually, we have no notice or cure rights with respect to such a termination and have no rights to assignment of any such franchise agreement. This may have an adverse effect on our ability to mitigate losses arising from a default on any of our leases. A franchisor's or licensor's termination or refusal to renew a franchise or license agreement would likely have a material adverse effect on the ability of the tenant to make payments under its lease, which could materially and adversely affect us.
The bankruptcy or insolvency of a tenant could result in the termination or modification of such tenant's lease and material losses to us.
The occurrence of a tenant bankruptcy or insolvency could diminish the income we receive from that tenant's lease or leases or force us to “take back” a property as a result of a default or a rejection of a lease by a tenant in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy risk is more acute in situations where we lease multiple properties to a tenant pursuant to a master lease. If a tenant becomes bankrupt, the automatic stay created by the bankruptcy will prohibit us from collecting pre-bankruptcy debts from that tenant, or from its property, or evicting such tenant based solely upon such bankruptcy or insolvency, unless we obtain an order permitting us to do so from the bankruptcy court. In addition, a bankrupt or insolvent tenant may be authorized to reject and terminate its lease or leases with us. Any claims against such bankrupt tenant for unpaid future rent would be subject to statutory limitations that would likely result in our receipt of rental revenues that are substantially less than the contractually specified rent we are owed under the lease or leases. In addition, any claim we have for unpaid past rent, if any, may not be paid in full. We may also be unable to re-lease a property whose lease is terminated or rejected in a bankruptcy proceeding on comparable terms (or at all) or to sell any such property. As a result, a significant number of tenant bankruptcies may materially and adversely affect us.
Tenants who are considering filing for bankruptcy protection may request that we agree to amendments of their master leases to remove certain of the properties they lease from us under such master leases. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to sell or re-lease properties that we agree to release from tenants' leases in the future or that lease termination fees, if any, will be sufficient to make up for the rental revenues lost as a result of lease amendments.
Property vacancies could result in us having to incur significant capital expenditures to re-tenant the properties.
Many of our leases relate to properties that have been designed or physically modified for a particular tenant. If such a lease is terminated or not renewed, we may be required to renovate the property at substantial costs, decrease the rent we charge or provide other concessions in order to lease the property to another tenant. In addition, if we determine to sell the property, we may have difficulty selling it to a party other than the tenant due to
the special purpose for which the property may have been designed or modified. This potential illiquidity may limit our ability to quickly modify our portfolio in response to changes in economic or other conditions, including tenant demand.
Defaults by borrowers on loans we hold could lead to losses.
We make mortgage and other loans, which may be unsecured, to extend financing to tenants at certain of our properties. A default by a borrower on its loan payments to us that would prevent us from earning interest or receiving a return of the principal of our loan could materially and adversely affect us. In the event of a default, we may also experience delays in enforcing our rights as lender and may incur substantial costs in collecting the amounts owed to us and in liquidating any collateral. Where collateral is available, foreclosure and other similar proceedings used to enforce payment of real estate loans are generally subject to principles of equity, which are designed to relieve the indebted party from the legal effect of that party's default. In the event we have to foreclose on a property, the amount we receive from the foreclosure sale of the property may be inadequate to fully pay the amounts owed to us by the borrower and our costs incurred to foreclose, repossess and sell the property.
Real estate lending has several risks that need to be considered. There is the potential for changes in local real estate conditions and subjectivity of real estate valuations. In addition, overall economic conditions may impact the borrowers’ financial condition. Adverse economic conditions such as high unemployment levels, interest rates, tax rates and fuel and energy costs may have an impact on the results of operations and financial conditions of borrowers.
We may be unable to identify and complete acquisitions of suitable properties, which may impede our growth, and our future acquisitions may not yield the returns we seek.
Growth through property acquisitions is a primary element of our strategy. Our ability to expand through acquisitions requires us to identify, finance and complete acquisitions or investment opportunities that are compatible with our growth strategy and to successfully finance and integrate newly acquired properties into our portfolio, which may be constrained by the following significant risks: we face competition from other real estate investors, some of which have greater economies of scale, lower costs of capital, access to more financial resources and greater name recognition than we do, a greater ability to borrow funds and the ability to accept more risk than we can prudently manage, which may significantly reduce our acquisition volume or increase the purchase price for property we acquire, which could reduce our growth prospects; we may be unable to locate properties that will produce a sufficient spread between our cost of capital and the lease rate we can obtain from a tenant, in which case our ability to profitably grow our company will decrease; we may fail to have sufficient capital resources to complete acquisitions or our cost of capital could increase; we may incur significant costs and divert management attention in connection with evaluating and negotiating potential acquisitions, including ones that we are subsequently unable to complete; we may acquire properties that are not accretive to our results upon acquisition; our cash flow from an acquired property may be insufficient to meet our required principal and interest payments with respect to debt used to finance the acquisition of such property; we may discover unexpected items, such as unknown liabilities, during our due diligence investigation of a potential acquisition or other customary closing conditions may not be satisfied, causing us to abandon an investment opportunity after incurring expenses related thereto; we may spend more than budgeted amounts to make necessary improvements or renovations to acquired properties; we may acquire properties subject to liabilities and without any recourse, or with only limited recourse, with respect to unknown liabilities, such as liabilities for clean-up of undisclosed environmental contamination, claims by tenants, vendors or other persons dealing with the former owners of the properties, liabilities incurred in the ordinary course of business and claims for indemnification by general partners, directors, officers and others indemnified by the former owners of the properties; we may obtain only limited warranties when we acquire a property, including properties purchased in “as is” condition on a “where is” basis and “with all faults,” without warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose and pursuant to purchase agreements that contain only limited warranties, representations and indemnifications that survive for only a limited period after the closing. If any of these risks are realized, we may be materially and adversely affected.
Our real estate investments are generally illiquid which could significantly impede our ability to respond to market conditions or adverse changes in the performance of our tenants or our properties and which would harm our financial condition.
Our investments are relatively difficult to sell quickly. As a result of this illiquidity, our ability to promptly sell one or more properties in our portfolio in response to changing economic, financial or investment conditions is
limited. Return of capital and realization of gains, if any, from an investment generally will occur upon disposition or refinancing of the underlying property. We may be unable to realize our investment objective by sale, other disposition or refinancing at attractive prices within any given period of time or may otherwise be unable to complete any exit strategy. In particular, these risks could arise from weakness in or even the lack of an established market for a property, changes adversely affecting the tenant of a property, changes adversely affecting the area in which a particular property is located, adverse changes in the financial condition or prospects of prospective purchasers and changes in local, national or international economic conditions.
In addition, the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), imposes restrictions on a REIT's ability to dispose of properties that are not applicable to other types of real estate companies. In particular, the tax laws applicable to REITs effectively require that we hold our properties for investment, rather than primarily for sale in the ordinary course of business, which may cause us to forgo or defer sales of properties that otherwise would be in our best interest. Therefore, we may not be able to vary our portfolio in response to economic or other conditions promptly or on favorable terms.
Our growth depends on third-party sources of capital that are outside of our control and may not be available to us on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
In order to qualify as a REIT, we are required under the Code, among other things, to distribute annually at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gain. In addition, we will be subject to income tax at the corporate rate to the extent that we distribute less than 100% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and including any net capital gain. Accordingly, we will not be able to fund all of our future capital needs, including any necessary acquisition financing, from operating cash flow. Consequently, we rely on other sources of capital, including net proceeds from asset sales and external third-party sources to fund a portion of our capital needs. Our access to debt and equity capital, and the cost thereof, depends on many factors, including general market conditions, interest rates, inflation, the market's perception of our growth potential, our debt levels, our credit rating, our current and expected future earnings, our cash flow and cash distributions, and the market price of our common stock. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly and adversely impacted global, national, regional and local economic activity and has contributed to significant volatility and negative pressure in the financial markets. In particular, our stock price has experienced significant volatility and our credit spreads in certain credit markets have recently been wider relative to our historical levels.
An important aspect of our business is capturing a positive “spread” between the cost at which we raise capital and the returns that we receive on our investments. To the extent our weighted average cost of capital increases without a corresponding increase in the returns that we receive on our investments, this spread will be reduced or eliminated, and our ability to grow through accretive acquisitions will be reduced or even eliminated. If we cannot obtain capital from third-party sources, or if our cost of capital increases materially, we may not be able to acquire properties when strategic opportunities exist, meet the capital and operating needs of our existing properties, satisfy our debt service obligations or make the cash distributions to our stockholders necessary to qualify as a REIT.
Loss of senior executives with long-standing business relationships could materially impair our ability to operate successfully.
Our ability to operate our business and grow our portfolio depend, in large part, upon the efforts of our senior executive team. Several of our executives have extensive experience and strong reputations in the real estate industry and have been important in setting our strategic direction, operating our business, assembling and growing our portfolio, identifying, recruiting and training key personnel, and arranging necessary financing. In particular, relationships that these individuals have with financial institutions and existing and prospective tenants are important to our growth and the success of our business. The loss of services of one or more members of our senior management team, including due to the adverse health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or our inability to attract and retain highly qualified personnel, could adversely affect our business, diminish our investment opportunities and weaken our relationships with lenders, business partners, existing and prospective tenants and industry personnel, which could materially and adversely affect us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has materially and adversely impacted our business and those of our tenants, particularly during 2020 and 2021, and could further affect our financial condition, results of operations,
cash flows and liquidity, prospects, access to and costs of capital, the trading price of our common stock and our ability to service our debt and make distributions to our stockholders.
For much of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created significant uncertainty and economic disruption that adversely affected the Company and its tenants. The adverse impact of the pandemic moderated during 2021 and significantly diminished during 2022. However, the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, its duration and any enduring effects are unclear, and various factors could erode the progress that has been made against the virus to date. For instance, a reinstitution of lockdowns, quarantines, restrictions on travel, “shelter in place” rules, school closures and/or restrictions on the types of businesses that may continue to operate or limitations on certain business operations, whether in response to a COVID-19 resurgence or another pathogen, could cause a decline in economic activity and a reduction in consumer confidence that could impair the ability of many of our tenants to operate their businesses and meet their obligations to us, including rental payment obligations.
More broadly, if the ongoing effects of COVID-19, the responses thereto or other factors cause the United States to enter into a recessionary period, or if reduced consumer confidence or unemployment weakens economic activity, our business, and those of our tenants, could be adversely affected. To the extent the pandemic causes a secular change in consumer behavior that reduces patronage of service-based and/or experience-based businesses, many of our tenants would be adversely affected and their ability to meet their obligations to us could be impaired; this could also reduce the value of our properties and cause us to realize impairment charges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly and adversely impacted global, national, regional and local economic activity and has contributed to significant volatility and negative pressure in the financial markets. The market price of our common stock on the NYSE has experienced significant volatility since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, the availability and pricing of debt and equity capital has become increasingly volatile and, in many instances, more expensive. Accordingly, we could experience difficulty accessing debt and equity capital on attractive terms, or at all, which would adversely affect our ability to grow our business, conduct our operations or address maturing liabilities. Similarly, a deterioration in access to capital or an increase in cost may adversely affect our tenants' abilities to finance their businesses and reduce their liquidity, which could reduce their ability to meet their obligations to us.
The ultimate extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic adversely impacts us (and our tenants) will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including the scope, severity and duration of the pandemic, the actions taken to contain the pandemic or mitigate its impact, and the direct and indirect economic effects of the pandemic and containment and mitigation measures, among others.
Risks Related to Environmental and Compliance Matters and Climate Change
The costs of compliance with or liabilities related to environmental laws may materially and adversely affect us.
The properties we own or have owned in the past may subject us to known and unknown environmental liabilities. We obtain Phase I environmental site assessments on all properties we finance or acquire. However, the Phase I environmental site assessments are limited in scope and therefore may not reveal all environmental conditions affecting a property. Under various federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to the environment, as a current or former owner or operator of real property, we may be liable for costs and damages resulting from environmental matters, including the presence or discharge of hazardous or toxic substances, waste or petroleum products at, on, in, under or migrating from such property, including costs to investigate or clean up such contamination and liability for personal injury, property damage or harm to natural resources. If environmental contamination exists on our properties, we could be subject to strict, joint and/or several liability for the contamination by virtue of our ownership interest; we may face liability regardless of our knowledge of the contamination, the timing of the contamination, the cause of the contamination, or the party responsible for the contamination of the property.
If our environmental liability insurance is inadequate, we may become subject to material losses for environmental liabilities. Although our leases generally require our tenants to operate in compliance with all applicable laws and to indemnify us against any environmental liabilities arising from a tenant's activities on the property, we could be subject to strict liability by virtue of our ownership interest. We cannot be sure that our tenants will, or will be able to, satisfy their indemnification obligations, if any, under our leases. Furthermore, the discovery of environmental liabilities on any of our properties could lead to significant remediation costs or to other liabilities or obligations attributable to the tenant of that property or could result in material interference with the ability of our
tenants to operate their businesses as currently operated. Noncompliance with environmental laws or discovery of environmental liabilities could each individually or collectively affect such tenant's ability to make payments to us, including rental payments and, where applicable, indemnification payments. Additionally, the known or potential presence of hazardous substances on a property may adversely affect our ability to sell, lease or improve the property or to borrow using the property as collateral. Environmental laws may also create liens on contaminated properties in favor of the government for damages and costs it incurs to address such contamination. Moreover, if contamination is discovered on our properties, environmental laws may impose restrictions on the manner in which they may be used or businesses may be operated, and these restrictions may require substantial expenditures.
Insurance on our properties may not adequately cover all losses and uninsured losses could materially and adversely affect us.
Our tenants are required to maintain liability and property insurance coverage for the properties they lease from us pursuant to triple-net leases. Pursuant to such leases, our tenants are required to name us (and any of our lenders that have a mortgage on the property leased by the tenant) as additional insureds on their liability policies and additional named insured and/or loss payee (or mortgagee, in the case of our lenders) on their property policies. All tenants are required to maintain casualty coverage. Depending on the location of the property, losses of a catastrophic nature, such as those caused by earthquakes and floods, may be covered by insurance policies that are held by our tenant with limitations such as large deductibles or co-payments that a tenant may not be able to meet. In addition, losses of a catastrophic nature, such as those caused by wind/hail, hurricanes, terrorism or acts of war, may be uninsurable or not economically insurable. If there is damage to our properties that is not covered by insurance and such properties are subject to recourse indebtedness, we will continue to be liable for the indebtedness, even if these properties are irreparably damaged.
Inflation, changes in building codes and ordinances, environmental considerations and other factors, including terrorism or acts of war, may make any insurance proceeds we receive insufficient to repair or replace a property if it is damaged or destroyed. In that situation, the insurance proceeds received may not be adequate to restore our economic position with respect to the affected real property. Furthermore, if we experience a substantial or comprehensive loss of one of our properties, we may not be able to rebuild such property to its existing specifications without significant capital expenditures which may exceed any amounts received pursuant to insurance policies, as reconstruction or improvement of such a property would likely require significant upgrades to meet zoning and building code requirements. The loss of our capital investment in or anticipated future returns from our properties due to material uninsured losses could materially and adversely affect us.
Compliance with the ADA and fire, safety and other regulations may require us to make unanticipated expenditures.
Our properties are subject to the ADA, fire and safety regulations, building codes and other regulations. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations could result in imposition of fines by the government or an award of damages to private litigants, or both. While our tenants are obligated by law to comply with the ADA and typically obligated under our leases to cover costs associated with compliance with the ADA and other property regulations, if required changes involve greater expenditures than anticipated or if the changes must be made on a more accelerated basis than anticipated, the ability of our tenants to cover costs could be adversely affected, and we could be required to expend our own funds to comply with applicable law and regulation.
Our operations and financial condition may be adversely affected by climate change, including possible changes in weather patterns, weather-related events, government policy, laws, regulations and economic conditions.
In recent years, the assessment of the potential impact of climate change has begun to impact the activities of government authorities, the pattern of consumer behavior and other areas that impact the business environment in the U.S., including, but not limited to, energy-efficiency measures, water use measures and land-use practices. The promulgation of policies, laws or regulations relating to climate change by governmental authorities in the U.S. and the markets in which we own properties may require us to invest additional capital in our properties. New laws and regulations relating to sustainability and climate change are under consideration or being adopted, which may include specific disclosure requirements or obligations, and that may result in additional investments and implementation of new practices and reporting processes, all entailing additional compliance costs and risk. In addition, the impact of climate change on businesses operated by our tenants is not reasonably determinable at this time. Climate change may impact weather patterns, the occurrence of significant weather events and rising sea
levels, which could impact economic activity or the value of our properties in specific markets. The occurrence of any of these events or conditions may adversely impact our ability to lease our properties or our or our tenants’ ability to obtain property insurance on acceptable terms, which would materially and adversely affect us.
Risks Related to Our Indebtedness
As of December 31, 2022, we had $1.4 billion of indebtedness outstanding, which requires substantial cash flow to service, subjects us to covenants and refinancing risk and the risk of default.
As of December 31, 2022, we had $1.4 billion of indebtedness outstanding. This indebtedness consisted of $1.0 billion of combined borrowings under our term loans and $400.0 million outstanding principal amount of senior unsecured notes. We had no indebtedness outstanding under our Revolving Credit Facility as of December 31, 2022, but we may borrow from this facility in the future. Payments of principal and interest on indebtedness may leave us with insufficient cash resources to meet our cash needs, including funding our investment program, or to make the distributions to our common stockholders currently contemplated or necessary to continue to qualify as a REIT. Our indebtedness and the limitations imposed on us by our debt agreements could have significant adverse consequences, including the following: our cash flow may be insufficient to make our required principal and interest payments; cash interest expense and financial covenants relating to our indebtedness may limit or eliminate our ability to make distributions to our common stockholders; we may be unable to borrow additional funds as needed or on favorable terms, which could, among other things, adversely affect our ability to consummate investment opportunities or meet operational needs; we may be unable to refinance our indebtedness at maturity, or the refinancing terms may be less favorable than the terms of the debt being refinanced; because a portion of our debt bears interest at variable rates, increases in interest rates could increase our interest expense; we may be unable to hedge floating rate debt, counterparties may fail to honor their obligations under our hedge agreements, such agreements may not effectively hedge interest rate fluctuation risk, and, upon the expiration of our hedge agreements, we will be exposed to then-existing market rates of interest and future interest rate volatility; we may be forced to dispose of properties, possibly on unfavorable terms or in violation of certain covenants to which we may be subject; we may default on our obligations, we may violate restrictive covenants in our loan documents, which would entitle the lenders to accelerate our debt obligations; and our default under any loan with cross-default provisions could result in a default on other indebtedness. The occurrence of any of these events could materially and adversely affect us.
Our business plan depends on external sources of capital, including debt financings, and market conditions could adversely affect our ability to refinance existing indebtedness or obtain additional financing for growth on commercially acceptable terms or at all.
Credit markets have recently experienced significant price volatility, displacement and liquidity disruptions. In particular, credit spreads in certain credit markets have recently been wider relative to historical levels. Such circumstances could materially impact liquidity in the financial markets, making financing terms for borrowers less attractive, and potentially result in the unavailability of various types of debt financing. As a result, we may be unable to obtain debt financing on favorable terms or at all or fully refinance maturing indebtedness with new indebtedness. A deterioration in our credit or credit rating, reductions in our available borrowing capacity or inability to obtain credit when required or when business conditions warrant could materially and adversely affect us.
If prevailing interest rates or other factors at the time of refinancing result in higher interest rates upon refinancing, then the interest expense relating to that refinanced indebtedness would increase. Higher interest rates on newly incurred debt may negatively impact us as well. If interest rates increase, our interest costs and overall costs of capital will increase, which could materially and adversely affect us and our ability to invest accretively or make distributions to our stockholders.
Though we currently do not have any secured debt, we have raised capital through secured debt financing in the past, and we may do so again in the future. Secured debt subjects us to certain risks, including the potential loss of the property securing such debt through foreclosure or otherwise and the possible inability to refinance any such debt at maturity at a similar loan-to-value ratio.
A downgrade in our credit ratings could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
The credit ratings assigned to us and our debt, which are subject to ongoing evaluation by the rating agencies who have published them, could change based upon, among other things, our historical and projected business, prospects, liquidity, results of operations and financial condition, or the real estate industry generally. If any credit rating agency downgrades or lowers our credit rating, places any such rating on a so-called “watch list” for a possible downgrading or lowering or otherwise publishes a negative outlook for that rating, it could materially adversely affect the market price of our debt securities and possibly our common stock, and generally the cost and availability of our capital.
We have engaged in hedging transactions and may engage in additional hedging transactions in the future; such transactions may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows.
We use hedging strategies, in a manner consistent with the REIT qualification requirements, in an effort to reduce our exposure to changes in interest rates. As of December 31, 2022, we were party to 19 interest rate swap agreements with third-party financial institutions having an aggregate notional amount of $1.0 billion that are designated as cash flow hedges and designed to effectively fix the LIBOR component of the interest rate on the debt outstanding under our term loans. Unanticipated changes in interest rates may result in poorer overall investment performance than if we had not engaged in any such hedging transactions and may materially and adversely affect our business by increasing our cost of capital and reducing the net returns we earn on our portfolio.
The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), which is expected to replace LIBOR as the principal floating rate benchmark, has a limited history, is different than LIBOR and rates derived from SOFR may perform differently than LIBOR would have performed, which could create increased volatility in our cost of borrowing or increase our interest expense.
In anticipation of the discontinuation of LIBOR as a floating rate benchmark, we transitioned the reference interest rate used in connection with our floating rate debt obligations to ones based on SOFR, which is generally expected to replace LIBOR as the principal floating rate benchmark in the financial markets. SOFR-based rates differ from LIBOR, and the differences may be material. For example, SOFR is intended to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing funds overnight in transactions that are collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities. Because SOFR is a financing rate based on overnight secured funding transactions, it differs fundamentally from LIBOR, which is intended to be an unsecured rate that represents interbank funding costs for different short-term tenors. LIBOR is a forward-looking rate reflecting expectations regarding interest rates for those tenors. Thus, LIBOR is intended to be sensitive to bank credit risk and to short-term interest rate risk. In contrast, SOFR is a secured overnight rate reflecting the credit of U.S. Treasury securities as collateral. Thus, SOFR is intended to be insensitive to credit risk and to risks related to interest rates other than overnight rates. However, like LIBOR, some SOFR-based rates, including the ones used in connection with our floating rate debt obligations, are forward-looking term rates. SOFR and SOFR-based rates have a limited history, and there is no assurance that SOFR, or rates derived from SOFR, will perform in the same or a similar way as LIBOR would have performed at any time, and there is no assurance that SOFR-based rates will ultimately prove to be a suitable substitute for LIBOR. SOFR-based reference rates, cannot be predicted based on SOFR’s history, and future levels of SOFR may bear little or no relation to historical levels of SOFR, LIBOR or other rates. Additionally, SOFR has been more volatile than other benchmark or market rates, such as three-month LIBOR. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that our transition to term SOFR in connection with our floating rate borrowings will not result in increased volatility in our cost of borrowing or increased interest expense.
Additionally, the inability or any inefficiency in market participants ability to hedge SOFR-based transactions or the illiquidity or relative illiquidity in the market for SOFR-based instruments may increase the costs associated with SOFR-based debt instruments or our ability to hedge our exposure to floating interest rates.
Our debt financing agreements contain restrictions and covenants which may limit our ability to enter into, or obtain funding for, certain transactions, operate our business or make distributions to our common stockholders.
Our debt financing agreements contain financial and other covenants with which we are required to comply and that limit our ability to operate our business. These covenants, as well as any additional covenants to which we may be subject in the future because of additional or replacement debt financing, could cause us to have to forego
investment opportunities, reduce or eliminate distributions to our common stockholders or obtain financing that is more expensive than financing we could obtain if we were not subject to the covenants. The covenants impose limitations on, among other things, our ability to incur additional indebtedness, encumber assets and pay distributions to our stockholders under certain circumstances (subject to certain exceptions relating to our qualification as a REIT under the Code). In addition, these agreements have cross-default provisions that generally result in an event of default if we default under other material indebtedness.
The covenants and other restrictions under our debt agreements may affect, among other things, our ability to: incur indebtedness; create liens on assets; cause our subsidiaries to distribute cash to us to fund distributions to stockholders or to otherwise use in our business; (see “Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Description of Certain Debt”); sell or substitute assets; modify certain terms of our leases; manage our cash flows; and make distributions to equity holders, including our common stockholders.
Additionally, these restrictions may adversely affect our operating and financial flexibility and may limit our ability to respond to changes in our business or competitive environment, all of which may materially and adversely affect us.
Mortgage debt obligations expose us to the possibility of foreclosure, which could result in the loss of our investment in any property subject to mortgage debt.
Future borrowings may be secured by mortgages on our properties. Incurring mortgage and other secured debt obligations increases our risk of losses because defaults on secured indebtedness may result in foreclosure actions initiated by lenders and ultimately our loss of the properties securing any loans for which we are in default. If we are in default under a cross-defaulted mortgage loan, we could lose multiple properties to foreclosure. For tax purposes, a foreclosure of any of our properties would be treated as a sale of the property for a purchase price equal to the outstanding balance of the debt secured by the mortgage. If the outstanding balance of the debt secured by the mortgage exceeds our tax basis in the property, we would recognize taxable income on foreclosure, but would not receive any cash proceeds, which could hinder our ability to meet the REIT distribution requirements. As we execute our business plan, we may assume or incur new mortgage indebtedness on our properties. Any default under any mortgage debt obligation we incur may increase the risk of our default on our other indebtedness.
Risks Related to Our Organizational Structure
Our charter and bylaws and Maryland law contain provisions that may delay, defer or prevent a change of control transaction, even if such a change in control may be in your interest, and as a result may depress the market price of our common stock. Our charter contains certain restrictions on ownership and transfer of our stock.
Our charter contains various provisions that are intended to, among other things, assist us in maintaining our qualification for taxation as a REIT and, subject to certain exceptions, authorizes our directors to take such actions as are necessary or appropriate to cause us to continue to qualify as a REIT. For example, our charter prohibits the actual, beneficial or constructive ownership by any person of more than 9.8% in value or in number of shares, whichever is more restrictive, of the outstanding shares of our common stock or more than 9.8% in value of the aggregate of the outstanding shares of all classes and series of our stock.
Our Board, in its sole and absolute discretion, may exempt a person, prospectively or retroactively, from these ownership limits if certain conditions are satisfied. The restrictions on ownership and transfer of our stock may, among other things: discourage a tender offer or other transaction or a change in management or of control that might involve a premium price for our common stock or that our stockholders otherwise believe to be in their best interests; or result in the transfer of shares acquired in excess of the restrictions to a trust for the benefit of one or more charitable beneficiaries and, as a result, the forfeiture by the acquirer of the benefits of owning the additional shares.
We could increase or decrease the number of authorized shares of stock, classify and reclassify unissued stock and issue stock without stockholder approval.
Our Board, without stockholder approval, has the power under our charter to amend our charter to increase or decrease the aggregate number of shares of stock or the number of shares of stock of any class or series that we are authorized to issue, to authorize us to issue authorized but unissued shares of our common stock or preferred
stock and to classify or reclassify any unissued shares of our common stock or preferred stock into one or more classes or series of stock and to set the terms of such newly classified or reclassified shares. As a result, we may issue one or more classes or series of common stock or preferred stock with preferences, conversion or other rights, voting powers or rights, restrictions, limitations as to dividends or other distributions, qualifications or terms or conditions of redemption that are senior to, or otherwise conflict with, the rights of our common stockholders. Our Board could establish a class or series of common stock or preferred stock that could, depending on the terms of such class or series, delay, defer or prevent a transaction or a change of control that might involve a premium price for our common stock or otherwise be in the best interest of our stockholders.
Our bylaws designate the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland as the sole and exclusive forum for certain types of actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit stockholders' ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees and could discourage lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and employees.
Our bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, or, if that court does not have jurisdiction, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, will be the sole and exclusive forum for (a) any Internal Corporate Claim, as such term is defined in the Maryland General Corporation Law (“MGCL”), (b) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf, (c) any action asserting a claim of breach of any duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to us or to our stockholders, (d) any action asserting a claim against us or any of our directors, officers or other employees arising pursuant to any provision of the MGCL or our charter or bylaws or (e) any other action asserting a claim against us or any of our directors, officers or other employees that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. These choice of forum provisions will not apply to suits brought to enforce a duty or liability created by the Securities Act, the Exchange Act, or any other claim for which federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction.
These exclusive forum provisions may limit the ability of our stockholders to bring a claim in a judicial forum that such stockholders find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers, and employees. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provisions contained in our bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, and operating results.
Termination of the employment agreements with certain members of our senior management team could be costly and could impact a change in control of our company.
The employment agreements with certain members of our senior management team provide that if their employment with us terminates under certain circumstances (including in connection with a change in control of our company), we may be required to pay them significant amounts of severance compensation, thereby making it costly to terminate their employment. Furthermore, these provisions could delay or otherwise impact a transaction or a change in control of our company that might involve a premium paid for shares of our common stock or otherwise be in the best interests of our stockholders.
Our Board may change our investment and financing policies without stockholder approval, including those with respect to borrowing, and we may become more highly leveraged, which may increase our risk of default under our debt obligations.
Our investment and financing policies are exclusively determined by our Board. Accordingly, our stockholders do not control these policies. Further, our organizational documents do not limit the amount or percentage of indebtedness, funded or otherwise, that we may incur. Although we are not required by our organizational documents to maintain a particular leverage ratio and may not be able to do so, we generally intend to target a level of net debt (which includes recourse and non-recourse borrowings and any outstanding preferred stock issuance less unrestricted cash and cash equivalents) that, over time, is less than six times our Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre. However, from time to time, our ratio of net debt to our Annualized Adjusted EBITDAre may equal or exceed six times. Our Board may alter or eliminate our current policy on borrowing at any time without stockholder approval. If this policy changed, we could become more highly leveraged, which could result in an increase in our debt service and the risk of default on our obligations. In addition, a change in our investment policies, including the manner in which we allocate our resources across our portfolio or the types of assets in which we seek to invest,
may increase our exposure to interest rate risk, real estate market fluctuations and liquidity risk. Changes to our policies with regard to the foregoing could materially and adversely affect us.
Our rights and the rights of our stockholders to take action against our directors and officers are limited.
As permitted by Maryland law, our charter limits the liability of our directors and officers to us and our stockholders for money damages to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law. Therefore, our directors and officers are subject to monetary liability resulting only from: actual receipt of an improper benefit or profit in money, property or services; or active and deliberate dishonesty by the director or officer that was established by a final judgment as being material to the cause of action adjudicated.
As a result, we and our stockholders have rights against our directors and officers that are more limited than might otherwise exist. Accordingly, if actions taken by any of our directors or officers impede the performance of our company, your and our ability to recover damages from such director or officer will be limited. In addition, our charter requires us to indemnify our directors and officers for actions taken by them in those and certain other capacities to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law.
We are a holding company with no direct operations and rely on funds received from our Operating Partnership to make any distributions to stockholders and to pay liabilities.
We are a holding company and conduct substantially all of our operations through our Operating Partnership. We do not have any independent operations, and our only material asset is our interest in our Operating Partnership. As a result, we rely on distributions from our Operating Partnership to pay any distributions our Board declares on shares of our common stock. We also rely on distributions from our Operating Partnership to meet any of our obligations, including any tax liability on taxable income allocated to us from our Operating Partnership. In addition, because we are a holding company, claims by our stockholders will be structurally subordinated to all existing and future liabilities and obligations (whether or not for borrowed money) of our Operating Partnership and its subsidiaries. Therefore, in the event of our bankruptcy, liquidation or reorganization, our assets and those of our Operating Partnership and its subsidiaries will be able to satisfy the claims of our stockholders only after all of our and our Operating Partnership's and its subsidiaries' liabilities and obligations have been paid in full.
In connection with our future acquisition of properties or otherwise, we may issue units of our Operating Partnership to third parties. Such issuances would reduce our ownership in our Operating Partnership. If you do not directly own units of our Operating Partnership, you will not have any voting rights with respect to any such issuances or other partnership level activities of our Operating Partnership.
Conflicts of interest could arise in the future between the interests of our stockholders and the interests of holders of units in our Operating Partnership, which may impede business decisions that could benefit our stockholders.
Conflicts of interest could arise in the future as a result of the relationships between us and our stockholders, on the one hand, and our Operating Partnership and its limited partners, on the other. Under the terms of the partnership agreement of our Operating Partnership, if there is a conflict between the interests of our stockholders, on one hand, and any limited partners, on the other, we will endeavor in good faith to resolve the conflict in a manner not adverse to either our stockholders or any limited partners; provided, however, that so long as we own a controlling economic interest in our Operating Partnership, any conflict that cannot be resolved in a manner not adverse to either our stockholders or any limited partners shall be resolved in favor of our stockholders.
Certain mergers, consolidations and other transactions require the approval of a majority in interest of the outside limited partners in our Operating Partnership (which excludes us and our subsidiaries), which could prevent certain transactions that may result in our stockholders receiving a premium for their shares or otherwise be in their best interest.
The partnership agreement requires the general partner or us, as the parent of the general partner, to obtain the approval of a majority in interest of the outside limited partners in our Operating Partnership (which excludes us and our subsidiaries) in connection with certain mergers, consolidations or other combinations of us, or a sale of all or substantially all of our assets. This approval right could prevent a transaction that might be in the best interests of our stockholders.
Risks Related to Our Status as a REIT
Failure to continue to qualify as a REIT would materially and adversely affect us and the value of our common stock, and even if we continue to qualify as a REIT, we may be subject to certain additional taxes.
We elected to be taxed as a REIT for federal income tax purposes beginning with our taxable year ended December 31, 2018, and we believe that our current organization and operations have allowed and will continue to allow us to qualify as a REIT. We have not requested and do not plan to request a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, that we qualify as a REIT, and the statements in this Annual Report are not binding on the IRS or any court. Therefore, we cannot assure you that we will remain qualified as a REIT in the future. If we lose our REIT status, we will face significant tax consequences that would substantially reduce our cash available for distribution to our stockholders for each of the years involved because: we would not be allowed a deduction for distributions to stockholders in computing our taxable income and would be subject to federal income tax at the corporate rate; we also could be subject to increased state and local taxes; and unless we are entitled to relief under applicable statutory provisions, we could not elect to be taxed as a REIT for four taxable years following the year during which we were disqualified.
Any such corporate tax liability could be substantial and would reduce our cash available for, among other things, our operations and distributions to stockholders. In addition, if we fail to remain qualified as a REIT, we will not be required to make distributions to our stockholders. As a result of all these factors, our failure to remain qualified as a REIT also could impair our ability to expand our business and raise capital and could materially and adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.
Qualification as a REIT involves the application of highly technical and complex Code provisions for which there are only limited judicial and administrative interpretations. The determination of various factual matters and circumstances not entirely within our control may affect our ability to continue to qualify as a REIT. In order to continue to qualify as a REIT, we must satisfy a number of requirements, including requirements regarding the ownership of our stock, requirements regarding the composition of our assets and a requirement that at least 95% of our gross income in any year must be derived from qualifying sources, such as “rents from real property.” Also, we must make distributions to stockholders aggregating annually at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains. In addition, legislation, new regulations, administrative interpretations or court decisions may materially and adversely affect our investors, our ability to continue to qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes or the desirability of an investment in a REIT relative to other investments.
Even if we continue to qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes, we may be subject to some federal, state and local income, property and excise taxes on our income or property and, in certain cases, a 100% penalty tax, in the event we sell property as a dealer. In addition, any taxable REIT subsidiaries will be subject to tax as regular corporations in the jurisdictions in which they operate.
If our Operating Partnership fails to qualify as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, we will cease to qualify as a REIT and suffer other adverse consequences.
We believe that our Operating Partnership will be treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes and, as a result, will generally not be subject to federal income tax on its income. Instead, for federal income tax purposes each of the partners of the Operating Partnership, including us, will be allocated, and may be required to pay tax with respect to, such partner's share of its income. Our Operating Partnership will generally be required to determine and pay an imputed underpayment of tax (plus interest and penalties) resulting from an adjustment of the Operating Partnership's items of income, gain, loss, deduction or credit at the partnership level. We cannot assure you that the IRS will not challenge the tax classification of our Operating Partnership or any other subsidiary partnership in which we own an interest, or that a court will not sustain such a challenge. If the IRS were successful in treating our Operating Partnership or any such other subsidiary partnership as an entity taxable as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, we will fail to meet the gross income tests and certain of the asset tests applicable to REITs and, accordingly, we will likely cease to qualify as a REIT. Also, the failure of our Operating Partnership or any subsidiary partnerships to qualify as a disregarded entity or partnership could cause it to become subject to federal and state corporate income tax, which will reduce significantly the amount of cash available for debt service and for distribution to its partners, including us.
To maintain our REIT status, we may be forced to borrow funds during unfavorable market conditions, and the unavailability of such capital on favorable terms at the desired times, or at all, may cause us to curtail our investment activities and/or to dispose of assets at inopportune times.
To continue to qualify as a REIT, we generally must distribute to our stockholders at least 90% of our REIT taxable income each year, determined without regard to the dividends-paid deduction and excluding any net capital gains, and we will be subject to corporate income tax on our undistributed taxable income to the extent that we distribute less than 100% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends-paid deduction and including any net capital gains, each year. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax on the amount, if any, by which distributions paid by us in any calendar year are less than the sum of 85% of our ordinary income, 95% of our capital gain net income and 100% of our undistributed income from prior years.
In order to maintain our REIT status and avoid the payment of income and excise taxes, we may need to borrow funds to meet the REIT distribution requirements even if market conditions are not favorable for these borrowings. We cannot assure you that we will have access to such capital on favorable terms at the desired times, or at all, which may cause us to curtail our investment activities and/or to dispose of assets at inopportune times, and could materially and adversely affect us and the per share trading price of our common stock.
Our ability to provide certain services to our tenants may be limited by the REIT rules or may have to be provided through a taxable REIT subsidiary.
As a REIT, we generally cannot provide services to our tenants other than those that are customarily provided by landlords, nor can we derive income from a third party that provides such services. If we forego providing such services to our tenants, we may be at a disadvantage to competitors that are not subject to the same restrictions. However, we can provide such non-customary services to our tenants and receive our share in the revenue from such services if we do so through a taxable REIT subsidiary (“TRS”), though income earned by such TRS will be subject to U.S. federal corporate income taxation.
The IRS may treat sale-leaseback transactions as loans, which could jeopardize our REIT status or require us to make an unexpected distribution.
A significant portion of our investments were obtained through sale-leaseback transactions, where we purchase owner-occupied real estate and lease it back to the seller. We expect that a majority of our future investments will be obtained this way. The IRS may take the position that specific sale-leaseback transactions that we treat as leases are not true leases for federal income tax purposes but, instead, should be re-characterized as financing arrangements or loans.
If a sale-leaseback transaction were so re-characterized, we might fail to satisfy the REIT asset tests, the income tests or distribution requirements and consequently lose our REIT status effective with the year of re-characterization unless we elect to make an additional distribution to maintain our REIT status. The primary risk relates to our loss of previously incurred depreciation expenses, which could affect the calculation of our REIT taxable income and could cause us to fail the REIT distribution test that requires a REIT to distribute at least 90% of its REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the dividends-paid deduction and excluding any net capital gain. In this circumstance, we may elect to distribute an additional dividend of the increased taxable income so as not to fail the REIT distribution test. This distribution would be paid to all stockholders at the time of declaration rather than the stockholders existing in the taxable year affected by the re-characterization.
Dividends payable by REITs do not qualify for the reduced tax rates available for some dividends.
The maximum tax rate applicable to income from "qualified dividends" payable to U.S. stockholders that are individuals, trusts and estates is 20%. Dividends payable by REITs, however, generally are not eligible for the 20% rate except to the extent the REIT dividends are attributable to "qualified dividends" received by the REIT itself. However, for non-corporate U.S. stockholders, dividends payable by REITs that are not designated as capital gain dividends or otherwise treated as "qualified dividends" generally are eligible for a deduction of 20% of the amount of such dividends, for taxable years beginning before January 1, 2027. More favorable rates will nevertheless continue to apply for regular corporate "qualified dividends." Although these rules do not adversely affect the taxation of REITs or dividends payable by REITs, if the 20% rate continues to apply to regular corporate qualified dividends, investors who are individuals, trusts and estates may regard investments in REITs to be relatively less attractive than investments in the stocks of non-REIT corporations.
The tax imposed on REITs engaging in “prohibited transactions” may limit our ability to engage in transactions which would be treated as sales for federal income tax purposes.
A REIT's net income from “prohibited transactions” is subject to a 100% penalty tax. In general, prohibited transactions are sales or other dispositions of property, other than foreclosure property, held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business. Although we do not intend to hold any properties that would be characterized as held for sale to customers in the ordinary course of our business, unless a sale or disposition qualifies under certain statutory safe harbors, no guarantee can be given that the IRS would agree with our characterization of our properties or that we will always be able to make use of the available safe harbors.
Complying with REIT requirements may limit our ability to hedge effectively and may cause us to incur tax liabilities.
The REIT provisions of the Code substantially limit our ability to hedge our assets and liabilities. Any income from a hedging transaction that we enter into to manage the risk of interest rate changes with respect to borrowings made or to be made to acquire or carry real estate assets, or from certain terminations of such hedging positions, does not constitute “gross income” for purposes of the 75% or 95% gross income tests that apply to REITs, provided that certain identification requirements are met. To the extent that we enter into other types of hedging transactions or fail to properly identify such transaction as a hedge, the income is likely to be treated as non-qualifying income for purposes of both of the gross income tests. As a result of these rules, we may be required to limit our use of advantageous hedging techniques or implement those hedges through a TRS. This could increase the cost of our hedging activities because any TRS in which we own an interest may be subject to tax on gains or expose us to greater risks associated with changes in interest rates than we would otherwise want to bear. In addition, losses in any TRS in which we own an interest will generally not provide any tax benefit, except that such losses could theoretically be carried forward against future taxable income in such TRS.
Complying with REIT requirements may affect our profitability and may force us to liquidate or forgo otherwise attractive investments.
To qualify as a REIT, we must continually satisfy tests concerning, among other things, the nature and diversification of our assets, the sources of our income and the amounts we distribute to our stockholders. We may be required to liquidate or forgo otherwise attractive investments in order to satisfy the asset and income tests or to qualify under certain statutory relief provisions. We also may be required to make distributions to stockholders at disadvantageous times or when we do not have funds readily available for distribution. As a result, having to comply with the distribution requirement could cause us to: (i) sell assets in adverse market conditions; (ii) borrow on unfavorable terms; or (iii) distribute amounts that would otherwise be invested in future acquisitions, capital expenditures or repayment of debt. Accordingly, satisfying the REIT requirements could materially and adversely affect us. Moreover, if we are compelled to liquidate our investments to meet any of these asset, income or distribution tests, or to repay obligations to our lenders, we may be unable to comply with one or more of the requirements applicable to REITs or may be subject to a 100% tax on any resulting gain if such sales are prohibited transactions.
There is a risk of changes in the tax law applicable to REITs.
Because the IRS, the United States Treasury Department and Congress frequently review federal income tax legislation, we cannot predict whether, when or to what extent new federal tax laws, regulations, interpretations or rulings will be adopted. Any of such legislative actions may prospectively or retroactively modify our tax treatment and, therefore, may adversely affect taxation of us and/or our investors. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “TCJA”) has significantly changed the U.S. federal income taxation of U.S. businesses and their owners, including REITs and their stockholders. You are urged to consult with your tax advisor with respect to the status of legislative, regulatory, judicial or administrative developments and proposals and their potential effect on an investment in our securities.
Risks Related to the Ownership of Our Common Stock
Changes in market conditions and volatility of stock prices could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
The market price of our common stock on the NYSE has experienced significant volatility, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The market price of our common stock will fluctuate, and such fluctuations
could be significant and frequent; accordingly, our common stockholders may experience a significant decrease in the value of their shares, including decreases that may be related to technical market factors and may be unrelated to our operating performance or prospects. Similarly, the trading volume of our common stock may decline, and our common stockholders could experience a decrease in liquidity. A number of factors could negatively affect the price per share of our common stock, including: actual or anticipated variations in our quarterly operating results or distributions; changes in our funds from operations (“FFO”), core FFO (“Core FFO”), adjusted FFO (“AFFO”) or guidance; changes in our net investment activity; difficulties or inability to access equity or debt capital on attractive terms or extend or refinance existing debt; increases in our leverage; changes in our management or business strategy; failure to comply with the NYSE listing requirements or other regulatory requirements; and the other factors described in this Risk Factors section. Many of these factors are beyond our control. These factors may cause the market price of shares of our common stock to decline significantly, regardless of our financial condition, results of operations, business or our prospects.
Increases in market interest rates may result in a decrease in the value of shares of our common stock.
One of the factors that may influence the price of shares of our common stock is the distribution yield on shares of our common stock (as a percentage of the price of shares of our common stock) relative to market interest rates. An increase in market interest rates may lead prospective purchasers of shares of our common stock to expect a higher distribution yield. Additionally, higher interest rates would likely increase our borrowing costs and potentially decrease funds available for distribution. Thus, higher market interest rates could cause the per share trading price of our common stock to decrease. Higher borrowing costs and a reduced trading price of our common stock would increase our overall cost of capital and adversely affect our ability to make accretive acquisitions.
We may be unable to continue to make distributions at our current distribution level, and our board may change our distribution policy in the future.
While we expect to continue to make regular quarterly distributions to the holders of our common stock, if sufficient cash is not available for distribution from our operations, we may have to fund distributions from working capital or net proceeds from asset sales, borrow to provide funds for such distributions, or reduce the amount of such distributions. To the extent we borrow to fund distributions, our future interest costs would increase, thereby reducing our earnings and cash available for distribution from what they otherwise would have been. If cash available for distribution generated by our assets is less than expected, or if such cash available for distribution decreases in future periods from expected levels, our inability to make distributions could result in a decrease in the market price of our common stock.
The decision to declare and pay distributions on our common stock, as well as the form, timing and amount of any such future distributions, is at the sole discretion of our Board and depends upon a number of factors, including our actual and projected results of operations, FFO, Core FFO, AFFO, liquidity, cash flows and financial condition, the revenue we actually receive from our properties, our operating expenses, our debt service requirements, our capital expenditures, prohibitions and other limitations under our financing arrangements, our REIT taxable income, the annual REIT distribution requirements, applicable law and such other factors as our Board deems relevant. We may not be able to make distributions in the future, and our inability to make distributions, or to make distributions at expected levels, could have a material adverse effect on the market price of our common stock.
The incurrence of additional debt, which would be senior to shares of our common stock upon liquidation, and/or preferred equity securities that may be senior to shares of our common stock for purposes of distributions or upon liquidation, may materially and adversely affect the market price of shares of our common stock.
In the future, we may attempt to increase our capital resources by making additional offerings of debt or preferred equity securities, including by causing our Operating Partnership or its subsidiaries to issue additional debt securities, or by otherwise incurring additional indebtedness. Upon liquidation, holders of our debt securities, other lenders and creditors, and any holders of preferred stock with a liquidation preference will receive distributions of our available assets prior to our stockholders. Additionally, any convertible or exchangeable securities that we issue in the future may have rights, preferences and privileges more favorable than those of our common stock and may result in dilution to owners of our common stock. Our stockholders are not entitled to preemptive rights or other protections against dilution. Our preferred stock, if issued, could have a preference on liquidating distributions or a preference on distribution payments that could limit our right to make distributions to our stockholders. Because our decision to issue securities in any future offering will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our
control, we cannot predict or estimate the amount, timing or nature of our future offerings. Our stockholders bear the risk of our future offerings reducing per share trading price of our common stock.
Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock or securities convertible into or exercisable or exchangeable therefor, or the perception that such sales might occur, could reduce the price of our common stock and may dilute your voting power and your ownership interest in us.
Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock or securities convertible into or exercisable or exchangeable therefor (such as OP Units), or the perception that such sales might occur, could adversely affect the market price of our common stock. OP Units (“OP Units”) are limited partnership interests in the Operating Partnership. Generally, beginning on and after the date that is 12 months after the issuance of OP Units, each limited partner of the Operating Partnership has the right to require the Operating Partnership to redeem part or all of its OP Units for cash, based upon the value of an equivalent number of shares of our common stock at the time of the redemption, or, at our election, shares of common stock on a one-for-one basis, subject to certain adjustments and the restrictions on ownership and transfer of our stock. Additionally, such sales would dilute the voting power and ownership interest of existing common stockholders. Our charter provides that we may issue up to 500,000,000 shares of common stock, and a majority of our entire Board has the power to amend our charter to increase the aggregate number of shares of stock or the number of shares of stock of any class or series that we are authorized to issue without stockholder approval. As of December 31, 2022, we had 142,379,655 shares of common stock outstanding and 553,847 OP Units outstanding (excluding OP Units held directly or indirectly by us). The currently outstanding OP Units are primarily held by members of our management team. Any exchange of OP Units for common stock may result in stockholder dilution. In the future we may acquire properties through tax deferred contribution transactions in exchange for OP Units. This acquisition structure may have the effect of, among other things, reducing the amount of tax depreciation we could deduct over the tax life of the acquired properties, and may require that we agree to protect the contributors' ability to defer recognition of taxable gain through restrictions on our ability to dispose of the acquired properties and/or the allocation of partnership debt to the contributors to maintain their tax bases. These restrictions could limit our ability to sell an asset at a time, or on terms, that would be favorable absent such restrictions. As of December 31, 2022, 958,515 shares remain available for issuance under our 2018 Incentive Plan.
General Risk Factors
We may be vulnerable to security breaches or cyber attacks which could disrupt our operations and have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and operating results.
We rely on information systems across our operations and corporate functions, including finance and accounting, and depend on such systems to ensure payment of obligations, collection of cash, data warehousing to support analytics, and other various processes and procedures. Our ability to efficiently manage our business depends significantly on the reliability and capacity of these systems. Security breaches, cyber attacks, or disruption, of our or our third-party service providers’ physical or information technology infrastructure, networks and related management systems could result in, among other things, a breach of our networks and information technology infrastructure, the misappropriation of our or our tenants’ proprietary or confidential information, interruptions or malfunctions in our or our tenants’ operations, misstated financial reports, violations of loan covenants, an inability to monitor compliance with REIT qualification requirements, breach of our legal, regulatory or contractual obligations, inability to access or rely upon critical business records, unauthorized access to our facilities or other disruptions in our operations. Numerous sources can cause these types of incidents, including physical or electronic security breaches; viruses, ransomware or other malware; hardware vulnerabilities; accident or human error by our own personnel or third parties; criminal activity or malfeasance (including by our own personnel); fraud or impersonation scams perpetrated against us or our partners or tenants; or security events impacting our third-party service providers or our partners or tenants.
We recognize the increasing volume of cyber attacks and employ commercially practical efforts to provide reasonable assurance such attacks are appropriately mitigated. We may be required to expend significant financial resources and management time to protect against or respond to such breaches. Techniques used to breach security change frequently and are generally not recognized until launched against a target, so we may not be able to promptly detect that a security breach or unauthorized access has occurred. We also may not be able to implement security measures in a timely manner or, if and when implemented, we may not be able to determine the extent to which these measures could be circumvented. If an actual or perceived security breach occurs, the market’s perception of our security measures could be harmed and we could lose current and potential tenants, and
such a breach could be harmful to our brand and reputation. Any breaches that may occur could expose us to increased risk of lawsuits, material monetary damages, potential violations of applicable privacy and other laws, penalties and fines, harm to our reputation and increases in our security and insurance costs. In the event of a breach resulting in loss of data, such as personally identifiable information or other such data protected by data privacy or other laws, we may be liable for damages, fines and penalties for such losses under applicable regulatory frameworks despite not handling the data. We cannot guarantee that any backup systems, regular data backups, security protocols, network protection mechanisms and other procedures currently in place, or that may be in place in the future, will be adequate to prevent network and service interruption, system failure, damage to one or more of our systems or data loss in the event of a security breach or attack.
In addition, the regulatory framework around data custody, data privacy and breaches varies by jurisdiction and is an evolving area of law with increasingly complex and rigorous regulatory standards enacted to protect business and personal data in the United States. We may not be able to limit our liability or damages in the event of such a loss. Data protection legislation is becoming increasingly common in the United States at both the federal and state level and may require us to further modify our data processing practices and policies. Compliance with existing, proposed and recently enacted laws and regulations can be costly; any failure to comply with these regulatory standards could subject us to legal and reputational risks. Misuse of or failure to secure personal information could also result in violation of data privacy laws and regulations, proceedings against the Company by governmental entities or others, fines and penalties, or damage to our reputation and credibility with regulators, tenants and investors.
We may become subject to litigation, which could materially and adversely affect us.
From time to time, we may become party to various lawsuits, claims and other legal proceedings. These matters may involve significant expense and may result in judgments or settlements, which may be significant. There can be no assurance that insurance will be available to cover losses related to legal proceedings or that our tenants will meet any indemnification obligations that they have to us. Litigation may result in significant defense costs and potentially significant judgments against us, some of which are not, or cannot be, insured against. Resolution of these types of matters against us may result in our having to pay significant fines, judgments or settlements, which, if uninsured, or if the fines, judgments, and settlements exceed insured levels, could materially and adversely affect us.
Material weaknesses in or a failure to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting or disclosure controls could prevent us from accurately and timely reporting our financial results, which could materially and adversely affect us.
Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports, effectively prevent fraud and operate successfully as a public company. If we cannot provide reliable financial reports or prevent fraud, our reputation and operating results would be harmed. We are required to perform system and process evaluation and testing of our internal control over financial reporting to allow management to report on, and our independent registered public accounting firm to attest to, the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, as required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Designing and implementing an effective system of internal control over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures is a continuous effort that requires significant resources, including the expenditure of a significant amount of time by senior members of our management team.
In connection with our ongoing monitoring of our internal control over financial reporting or audits of our financial statements, we or our auditors may identify deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting that may be significant or rise to the level of material weaknesses. Any failure to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting or disclosure controls and procedures or to timely effect any necessary improvements to such controls, could harm our operating results or cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations (which could affect the listing of our common stock on the NYSE). Additionally, ineffective internal control over financial reporting or disclosure controls and procedures could also adversely affect our ability to prevent or detect fraud, harm our reputation and cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which would likely have a negative effect on the trading price of our common stock.
Changes in accounting standards may materially and adversely affect us.
From time to time FASB and the SEC, who create and interpret accounting standards, may change the financial accounting and reporting standards or their interpretation and application of these standards that will govern the preparation of our financial statements. These changes could materially and adversely affect our reported financial condition and results of operations, and, under certain circumstances, may cause us to fail to comply with financial covenants contained in agreements relating to our indebtedness. In some cases, we could be required to apply a new or revised standard retroactively, resulting in restating prior period financial statements. Similarly, these changes could materially and adversely affect our tenants’ reported financial condition or results of operations and affect their preferences regarding leasing real estate.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.
Item 2. Properties.
Our Real Estate Investment Portfolio
As of December 31, 2022, we had a portfolio of 1,653 properties, inclusive of 153 properties that secure our investments in mortgage loans receivable, that was diversified by tenant, concept, industry and geography and had annualized base rent of $297.2 million. Our 350 tenants operate 538 different concepts in 16 industries across 48 states. None of our tenants represented more than 3.4% of our annualized base rent at December 31, 2022 and our top ten largest tenants represented 18.0% of our annualized base rent as of that date.
Diversification by Tenant
As of December 31, 2022, our top ten tenants included ten different concepts. The following table details information about our tenants and the related concepts they operate as of December 31, 2022 (dollars in thousands):
|Equipmentshare.com Inc.||EquipmentShare||33 ||$||9,962 ||3.4 ||%|
|CNP Holdings, LLC||Chicken N Pickle ||6 ||5,546 ||1.9 ||%|
|Captain D's, LLC||Captain D's||75 ||5,353 ||1.8 ||%|
|Whitewater Holding Company, LLC||WhiteWater Express Car Wash||16 ||4,953 ||1.7 ||%|
|Cadence Education, LLC||Various||23 ||4,941 ||1.7 ||%|
|MDSFest, Inc.||Festival Foods||5 ||4,681 ||1.6 ||%|
|The Track Holdings, LLC ||Five Star||9 ||4,649 ||1.6 ||%|
|Mammoth Holdings, LLC.||Various||17 ||4,552 ||1.5 ||%|
|Car Wash Partners, Inc.||Mister Car Wash||13 ||4,479 ||1.5 ||%|
|Bowl New England, Inc.||Spare Time||6 ||4,444 ||1.5 ||%|
|Top 10 Subtotal||203 ||53,559 ||18.0 ||%|
|Other ||1,448 ||243,599 ||82.0 ||%|
|Total||1,651 ||$||297,158 ||100.0 ||%|
(1)Represents tenant or guarantor.
(2)Excludes two vacant properties.
As of December 31, 2022, our five largest tenants, who contributed 10.3% of our annualized base rent, had a rent coverage ratio of 5.8x, and our ten largest tenants, who contributed 18.0% of our annualized base rent, had a rent coverage ratio of 4.7x.
As of December 31, 2022, 94.9% of our leases (based on annualized base rent) were triple-net, and the tenant is typically responsible for all improvements and is contractually obligated to pay all operating expenses, such as maintenance, insurance, utility and tax expense, related to the leased property. Due to the triple-
net structure of our leases, we do not expect to incur significant capital expenditures relating to our triple-net leased properties, and the potential impact of inflation on our operating expenses is reduced.
Diversification by Concept
Our tenants operate their businesses through 538 concepts (i.e., generally brands). The following table provides information about the top ten concepts in our portfolio as of December 31, 2022 (dollars in thousands):
(Sq. Ft.) (1)
|EquipmentShare||Service||$||9,962 ||3.4 ||%||33 ||589,550 |
|Captain D's||Service||6,595 ||2.2 ||%||88 ||228,470 |
|Chicken N Pickle||Service||5,546 ||1.9 ||%||6 ||202,057 |
|WhiteWater Express Car Wash||Service||4,953 ||1.7 ||%||16 ||77,746 |
|Festival Foods||Retail||4,681 ||1.6 ||%||5 ||379,640 |
|Mister Car Wash||Service||4,479 ||1.5 ||%||13 ||54,621 |
|Spare Time||Experience||4,443 ||1.5 ||%||6 ||272,979 |
|The Nest Schools||Service||4,146 ||1.4 ||%||17 ||217,282 |
|Zaxby's||Service||4,062 ||1.4 ||%||22 ||76,790 |
|Crunch Fitness||Experience||4,022 ||1.4 ||%||10 ||348,072 |
|Top 10 Subtotal||52,889 ||17.8 ||%||216 ||2,447,207 |
|Other||244,269 ||82.2 ||%||1,435 ||13,606,130 |
|Total||$||297,158 ||100.0 ||%||1,651 ||16,053,337 |
(1)Excludes two vacant properties.
Diversification by Industry
Our tenants' business concepts are diversified across various industries. The following table summarizes those industries as of December 31, 2022 (dollars in thousands except per sq. ft amounts):
|Tenant Industry||Type of|
(Sq. Ft.) (1)
Sq. Ft. (2)
|Car Washes||Service||$||39,192 ||13.2 ||%||137 ||697,050 ||$||56.23 |
|Early Childhood Education||Service||37,905 ||12.8 ||%||170 ||1,825,083 ||20.77 |
|Quick Service||Service||34,468 ||11.6 ||%||397 ||1,095,609 ||31.47 |
|Medical / Dental||Service||32,902 ||11.1 ||%||193 ||1,379,947 ||23.84 |
|Automotive Service||Service||25,455 ||8.6 ||%||195 ||1,256,845 ||20.06 |
|Casual Dining||Service||21,237 ||7.1 ||%||102 ||801,106 ||25.83 |
|Convenience Stores||Service||14,664 ||4.9 ||%||131 ||491,449 ||30.25 |
|Equipment Rental and Sales||Service||13,993 ||4.7 ||%||57 ||1,013,151 ||13.10 |
|Other Services||Service||7,541 ||2.5 ||%||35 ||438,901 ||17.18 |
|Pet Care Services||Service||5,142 ||1.7 ||%||46 ||371,069 ||14.44 |
|Family Dining||Service||4,746 ||1.6 ||%||32 ||179,942 ||26.38 |
|Service Subtotal ||237,245 ||79.8 ||%||1,495 ||9,550,152 ||24.78 |
|Entertainment||Experience||23,459 ||7.9 ||%||46 ||1,416,208 ||17.18 |
|Health and Fitness||Experience||11,495 ||3.9 ||%||29 ||1,125,329 ||9.44 |
|Movie Theatres||Experience||4,301 ||1.4 ||%||6 ||293,206 ||14.67 |
|Experience Subtotal||39,255 ||13.2 ||%||81 ||2,834,743 ||13.81 |
|Grocery||Retail ||9,747 ||3.3 ||%||28 ||1,341,200 ||7.27 |
|Home Furnishings||Retail ||2,048 ||0.7 ||%||4 ||217,339 ||9.42 |
|Retail Subtotal||11,795 ||4.0 ||%||32 ||1,558,539 ||7.57 |
|Other Industrial||Industrial||5,008 ||1.7 ||%||20 ||852,888 ||5.87 |
|Building Materials||Industrial||3,855 ||1.3 ||%||23 ||1,257,017 ||3.07 |
|Industrial Subtotal||8,863 ||3.0 ||%||43 ||2,109,905 ||4.20 |
|Total/Weighted Average||$||297,158 ||100.0 ||%||1,651 ||16,053,339 ||$||18.46 |
(1)Excludes two vacant properties.
(2)Excludes properties with no annualized base rent and properties under construction.
As of December 31, 2022, our tenants operating service-oriented businesses had a weighted average rent coverage ratio of 3.6x, our tenants operating experience-based businesses had a weighted average rent coverage ratio of 2.2x, our tenants operating retail businesses had a weighted average rent coverage ratio of 4.1x and our tenants operating other types of businesses had a weighted average rent coverage ratio of 24.5x.
Diversification by Geography
Our 1,653 property locations are spread across 48 states. The following table details the geographical locations of our properties as of December 31, 2022 (dollars in thousands):
|State||Annualized Base Rent||% of Annualized Base Rent||Number of Properties||Building (Sq. Ft.)|
|Texas||$||38,919 ||13.1 ||%||193 ||2,114,977 |
|Georgia||20,761 ||7.0 ||%||123 ||745,559 |
|Ohio||19,919 ||6.7 ||%||139 ||1,153,163 |
|Florida||19,266 ||6.5 ||%||78 ||786,740 |
|Wisconsin||12,953 ||4.4 ||%||56 ||778,137 |
|North Carolina||11,253 ||3.8 ||%||57 ||641,085 |
|Missouri||11,038 ||3.7 ||%||58 ||792,979 |
|Michigan||9,363 ||3.2 ||%||60 ||950,862 |
|Arizona||8,492 ||2.9 ||%||46 ||503,403 |
|Oklahoma||8,418 ||2.8 ||%||51 ||524,865 |
|New Jersey||8,337 ||2.8 ||%||27 ||215,705 |
|Alabama||8,083 ||2.7 ||%||52 ||458,898 |
|Tennessee||7,998 ||2.7 ||%||50 ||344,772 |
|Minnesota||7,261 ||2.4 ||%||36 ||496,939 |
|Arkansas||7,207 ||2.4 ||%||55 ||447,342 |
|Illinois||7,150 ||2.4 ||%||43 ||311,152 |
|New York||6,555 ||2.2 ||%||44 ||223,324 |
|Pennsylvania||6,389 ||2.2 ||%||35 ||338,665 |
|Virginia||6,336 ||2.1 ||%||24 ||262,428 |
|Massachusetts||5,861 ||2.0 ||%||29 ||406,159 |
|Colorado||5,659 ||1.9 ||%||27 ||262,068 |
|South Carolina||5,645 ||1.9 ||%||34 ||378,796 |
|Iowa||5,464 ||1.8 ||%||34 ||327,473 |
|Mississippi||4,755 ||1.6 ||%||41 ||271,991 |
|Indiana||4,700 ||1.6 ||%||38 ||303,066 |
|Kentucky||4,165 ||1.4 ||%||37 ||220,095 |
|Kansas||3,695 ||1.2 ||%||17 ||130,257 |
|Connecticut||3,449 ||1.2 ||%||13 ||217,985 |
|New Mexico||3,380 ||1.1 ||%||22 ||130,210 |
|Nevada||3,115 ||1.1 ||%||10 ||90,620 |
|California||3,087 ||1.0 ||%||15 ||151,566 |
|New Hampshire||2,740 ||0.9 ||%||13 ||230,149 |
|South Dakota||2,410 ||0.8 ||%||9 ||124,912 |
|Louisiana||2,368 ||0.8 ||%||13 ||124,161 |
|Maryland||2,276 ||0.8 ||%||9 ||79,028 |
|Washington||1,731 ||0.6 ||%||11 ||87,243 |
|West Virginia||1,636 ||0.6 ||%||24 ||66,746 |
|Oregon||1,240 ||0.4 ||%||8 ||127,673 |
|Utah||945 ||0.3 ||%||2 ||67,659 |
|Nebraska||880 ||0.3 ||%||9 ||33,103 |
|Maine||509 ||0.2 ||%||1 ||32,115 |
|Wyoming||444 ||0.2 ||%||2 ||14,001 |
|Idaho||403 ||0.1 ||%||1 ||35,433 |
|Alaska||246 ||0.1 ||%||2 ||6,630 |
|Vermont||219 ||0.1 ||%||2 ||30,508 |
|North Dakota||197 ||0.1 ||%||1 ||13,050 |
|Rhode Island||164 ||0.1 ||%||1 ||5,800 |
|Montana||77 ||— ||%||1 ||— |
|Total||$||297,158 ||100.0 ||%||1,653 ||16,059,492 |
As of December 31, 2022, the weighted average remaining term of our leases was 13.9 years (based on annualized base rent), with only 6.1% of our annualized base rent attributable to leases expiring prior to January 1, 2028. The following table sets forth our lease expirations for leases in place as of December 31, 2022 (dollars in thousands):
Lease Expiration Year (1)
Coverage Ratio (3)
|2023||$||1,306 ||0.4 ||%||14 ||3.1 ||x|
|2024||5,076 ||1.7 ||%||49 ||5.8 ||x|
|2025||2,246 ||0.8 ||%||19 ||2.1 ||x|
|2026||2,790 ||0.9 ||%||19 ||4.5 ||x|
|2027||6,852 ||2.3 ||%||66 ||2.5 ||x|
|2028||4,056 ||1.4 ||%||13 ||2.2 ||x|
|2029||5,671 ||1.9 ||%||78 ||3.9 ||x|
|2030||4,495 ||1.5 ||%||49 ||6.2 ||x|
|2031||13,773 ||4.6 ||%||80 ||2.9 ||x|
|2032||11,295 ||3.8 ||%||46 ||3.8 ||x|
|2033||7,446 ||2.5 ||%||25 ||2.9 ||x|
|2034||28,544 ||9.6 ||%||206 ||5.8 ||x|
|2035||14,916 ||5.0 ||%||101 ||6.7 ||x|
|2036||42,248 ||14.2 ||%||176 ||3.7 ||x|
|2037||26,486 ||8.9 ||%||129 ||7.3 ||x|
|2038||11,451 ||3.9 ||%||77 ||2.4 ||x|
|2039||19,157 ||6.4 ||%||94 ||3.8 ||x|
|2040||29,976 ||10.1 ||%||140 ||2.7 ||x|
|2041||22,841 ||7.7 ||%||113 ||2.4 ||x|
|2042||34,316 ||11.5 ||%||155 ||3.3 ||x|
|Thereafter||2,217 ||0.7 ||%||2 ||2.3 ||x|
|Total/Weighted Average||$||297,158 ||100.0 ||%||1,651 ||4.0 ||x|
(1)Expiration year of leases in place as of December 31, 2022, excluding any tenant option renewal periods that have not been exercised.
(2)Excludes two vacant properties.
(3)Weighted by annualized base rent.
Unit Level Rent Coverage
Generally, we seek to acquire investments with healthy rent coverage ratios, and as of December 31, 2022, the weighted average rent coverage ratio of our portfolio was 4.0x. Our portfolio’s unit-level rent coverage ratios (by annualized base rent and excluding leases that do not report unit-level financial information) as of December 31, 2022 are displayed below:
|Unit Level Coverage Ratio||% of Total |
|≥ 2.00x||72.6 ||%|
|1.50x to 1.99x||14.3 ||%|
|1.00x to 1.49x||8.4 ||%|
|< 1.00x||3.0 ||%|
|Not reported||1.7 ||%|
Implied Tenant Credit Ratings
Tenant financial distress is typically caused by consistently poor or deteriorating operating performance, near-term liquidity issues or unexpected liabilities. To assess the probability of tenant insolvency, we utilize Moody’s Analytics RiskCalc, which is a model for predicting private company defaults based on Moody’s Analytics Credit Research Database, which incorporates both market and company-specific risk factors. The following table illustrates the portions of our annualized base rent as of December 31, 2022 attributable to leases with tenants having specified implied credit ratings based on their Moody’s RiskCalc scores:
|Credit Rating||NR||< 1.00x||1.00 to 1.49x||1.50 to 1.99x||≥ 2.00x|
|CCC+||— ||%||0.4 ||%||0.3 ||%||0.2 ||%||0.6 ||%|
|B-||— ||%||0.1 ||%||— ||%||— ||%||1.6 ||%|
|B||— ||%||0.3 ||%||— ||%||2.5 ||%||1.3 ||%|
|B+||0.1 ||%||0.9 ||%||0.6 ||%||0.6 ||%||3.8 ||%|
|BB-||— ||%||0.1 ||%||2.0 ||%||1.7 ||%||13.6 ||%|
|BB||0.2 ||%||0.5 ||%||0.7 ||%||0.6 ||%||12.4 ||%|
|BB+||0.1 ||%||0.2 ||%||1.3 ||%||1.3 ||%||8.6 ||%|
|BBB-||0.2 ||%||— ||%||0.4 ||%||1.2 ||%||7.7 ||%|
|BBB||— ||%||0.4 ||%||1.7 ||%||5.3 ||%||11.3 ||%|
|BBB+||— ||%||0.1 ||%||1.1 ||%||— ||%||2.0 ||%|
|A-||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||0.1 ||%||5.2 ||%|
|A||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||2.6 ||%|
|A+||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||0.7 ||%|
|AA-||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%||— ||%|
NR Not reported
Item 3. Legal Proceedings.
We are subject to various lawsuits, claims and other legal proceedings. Management does not believe that the resolution of any of these matters either individually or in the aggregate will have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or liquidity. Further, from time to time, we are party to various lawsuits, claims and other legal proceedings for which third parties, such as our tenants, are contractually obligated to indemnify, defend and hold us harmless. In some of these matters, the indemnitors have insurance for the potential damages. In other matters, we are being defended by tenants who may not have sufficient insurance, assets, income or resources to satisfy their defense and indemnification obligations to us. The unfavorable resolution of such legal proceedings could, individually or in the aggregate, materially adversely affect the indemnitors' ability to satisfy their respective obligations to us, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or liquidity. It is management's opinion that there are currently no such legal proceedings pending that will, individually or in the aggregate, have such a material adverse effect. Despite management's view of the ultimate resolution of these legal proceedings, we may have significant legal expenses and costs associated with the defense of such matters. Further, management cannot predict the outcome of these legal proceedings and if management's expectation regarding such matters is not correct, such proceedings could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or liquidity.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.