Amid a flurry of first-quarter earnings reports released last week, several senior living operators and real estate investment trusts announced a start to occupancy uptick and possible post-pandemic growth.

Brookdale Senior Living

Brookdale Senior Living on Thursday reported a first-quarter loss of $108.3 million, compared with a gain of $369.5 million during the same period a year earlier. On a per-share basis, the Brentwood, TN-based firm said it had a loss of 59 cents.

Despite the financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brookdale is beginning to see positive momentum amid the “toughest battle in the company’s history,” Lucinda “Cindy” Baier, the firm’s president and CEO, said Friday during Brookdale’s first-quarter 2021 earnings call.

In March, she noted, net move-ins and move-outs turned positive in all senior living segments for the first time since before the pandemic began. 

“I am delighted that we concluded March with sequential occupancy growth and we accomplished this while maintaining rate discipline,” Baier said. “We continue to focus on driving occupancy improvement and our profitable growth strategy.”

Steven Swain, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said he expects a 50% stepdown in COVID-19-related expenses in the second quarter — compared with the $27.3 million in COVID-related costs in the first quarter — due to lower coronavirus case numbers. 

Swain said he was encouraged by several leading business indicators, including positive inflection in occupancy, the company’s maintenance of its rate discipline through the toughest part of the pandemic, slow construction starts and increasing leads based on demand for higher needs-based care and services.

See more coverage of the earnings call in McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Home Care.

CareTrust REIT

CareTrust REIT on Thursday reported funds from operations of $34.1 million, or 36 cents per share, for the first quarter of the year. That’s a 5.5% increase over the same period last year.

The San Clemente, CA-based REIT also reported a 6% increase in the annual dividend to $1.06 per share, and a 6-cent-per-share increase to previously released 2021 guidance, bringing its normalized funds-from-operations guidance to approximately $1.46 to $1.48 per share. Executives at the firm said it had collected 100% of its contract rents in the first quarter and 100% in April and noted that CareTrust appears on track to collect 100% in May.

“So despite the continuing headwinds and in light of the continuing government support, we remain cautiously optimistic about our tenants’ prospects as occupancy begins to climb back,” Greg Stapley, CareTrust’s chairman and CEO said Friday on the firm’s first-quarter 2021 earnings call.

See more coverage of the earnings call in McKnight’s Senior Living.

National HealthCare Corp.

National HealthCare Corp. announced Friday net operating revenues and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act income totaling $250.9 million for the first quarter, a 2% decrease over the same time period a year ago. 

The Murfreesboro, TN-based firm also noted that census in its skilled nursing facilities increased for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing by approximately 3.5% in the quarter. 

Pennant Group

The Pennant Group Thursday reported earnings of 11 cents per diluted share for the first quarter of the year, results that disappointed Wall Street and were 5 cents per share less than the same period last year. The Eagle, ID-based firm posted $105.7 million in revenue for the quarter, an increase of $13.8 million or 15.0% over the prior year quarter.

“In our senior living segment, the first quarter of 2021 marked perhaps the most challenging period of our history,” Daniel Walker, Pennant’s CEO said Friday on the firm’s first-quarter 2021 earnings call. Pennant had experienced relative stability in its segment occupancy in September and October of last year, but from November through February, occupancy declined at an accelerated rate due to the rapid rise of COVID-19, which peaked in mid-January in many of Pennant’s key markets and severely depressed its operating results, Walker noted. Then, in the midst of ongoing COVID-19 challenges, a severe winter storm in Texas during the first quarter significantly impacted operations in its 12 communities there.

“The confluence of these two events created a uniquely challenging operating environment that has caused short-term, downward pressure on our segment operating results,” Walker said, adding that although the peak effect was temporary, these challenges presented a distinctive opportunity for the firm to accelerate improvement in our leadership, cost management and ability to attract new residents in order to drive sustained, long-term success. He noted that the firm anticipated better performance in the second half of the year.

See more coverage of the earnings call in McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Home Care.

Ventas

Ventas on Friday reported funds from operations of $270.5 million, or 72 cents per share, for the first quarter of the year. The Chicago-based REIT’s results surpassed Wall Street’s expectations, and executives from the firm noted that, despite ongoing uncertainty, they believe that the worst of the pandemic is over.

For example, the firm noted that March and April were the first two consecutive months since the onset of COVID-19 when move-ins exceeded both pre-pandemic levels and move-outs.

“The whole Ventas team is actively engaged in taking steps to win the recovery for our stakeholders,” Ventas Chairman and CEO Debra Cafaro said Friday on the firm’s first-quarter 2021 earnings call. “These steps include making smart portfolio and capital allocation decisions, capturing the embedded upside in our high-quality senior housing portfolio, focusing on operational excellence and initiatives, investing in value-creating development and acquisition opportunities across our demographically-driven asset classes, attracting diverse, attractive capital, and maintaining financial strength and flexibility.”

See more coverage of the earnings call in McKnight’s Senior Living.