Although Ventas’ spinoff of 355 skilled nursing properties into a new real estate investment trust called Care Capital Properties, as well as its $1.75 billion acquisition of hospital care provider Ardent Health Services, grabbed headlines in 2015, Ventas remains committed to the senior housing sector, the REIT’s chairwoman and CEO, Debra Cafaro, told investors in a Feb. 12 conference call.
“We believe deeply in the value proposition of senior housing,” she said. “As an industry, we have tremendous opportunity to advocate the benefits of communal living to our residents and their families. Growth in the senior population will provide undeniable tailwinds and increasing demand for our communities. And a mere one percentage point increase in the seniors who choose to live in senior housing communities would create powerful new incremental demand, enough to fill all the currently vacant senior housing units in the nation.”
Ventas’ $200 million commitment to ground-up development projects in 2015 included two luxury senior housing communities, one in Palm Beach County in Florida and the other in San Francisco, Cafaro said.
Overall, the REIT saw normalized funds from operations grow 9% year-over-year, to $4.47 per share, above its guidance of $4.43 to $4.46 per share, as well as a 10% dividend increase in 2015, according to Ventas. “Our excellent and diversified portfolio generated industry-leading same-store growth during the year, and we ended 2015 with a strong balance sheet and $2.2 billion of liquidity,” Cafaro said.
That portfolio includes almost 1,300 senior housing, medical office, post-acute and general acute care hospital properties, said Bob Probst, Ventas executive vice president and chief financial officer; 786 of those properties are senior housing communities, according to the Ventas website. Properties are located in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
In 2016, Cafaro predicted, the U.S. economy will see low growth, low interest rates and low inflation, but “our segments should once again prove resilient because of the inelasticity of demand, the rapid aging of our population and the need-based nature of healthcare services.” The REIT, therefore, she said, expects normalized funds from operations to grow 3% to 5%, to between $4.07 and $4.15 per share.
Ventas projects its senior housing operating portfolio same-store net operating income to increase 1% to 3%, Probst said. In its triple-net lease portfolio, which includes 507 same-store seniors housing and post-acute properties, Ventas saw accelerated growth of 5.8% in 2015 versus 2014, he said, and full-year same-store net operating income in the triple-net portfolio grew 3.2%, above historical trends. “For 2016, we expect our triple-net portfolio to grow in the range of 2% to 3%,” Probst said.
“Senior living is an incredible space whose potential is only beginning to be realized,” Cafaro said. “Despite the ebbs and flows of supply cycles, we own an outstanding portfolio of [senior housing] communities and advantage markets and high-quality triple-net lease assets.”