Five Star CEO says expansions, acquisitions on to-do list

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The day after Five Star Quality Care received a critical letter from two investors, President and CEO Bruce Mackey told those listening to an earnings call that the interests of the company's board members align with those of shareholders.

William F. Thomas and Robert D. Thomas of Senior Star Management Co., who own 6.9% of the company's outstanding shares, wrote March 1 that the company must sell assets, invest in its existing leased communities, employ lease de-leveraging and expand the existing unit base to realize its financial potential.

The board regularly reviews governance, Mackey told call participants. “We want to see the stock go up. We're not happy with where where it is right now,” he added, noting that he owns 1.5% of the company.

Mackey said the board is focusing on improving operations and earnings through expansions and acquisitions. “Is going to turn around in the next quarter? Likely not. But I think long-term, this is a great company. This is a great industry, and we feel that we are really well-poised to take advantage of it in the future.”

In the March 2 investor call, Mackey reported a $0.13 loss per share from continuing operations for the fourth quarter of 2015 compared with a $1.46 loss per share for the same period in 2014. He noted, however, that if not for a previously announced $4.2 million wrongful death lawsuit settlement charge in the fourth quarter and some other “one-time items,” the loss would have been $0.03 per share.

Although increasing occupancy has been challenging for senior living operators, Mackey said, “We believe the programs that we have put into place to drive occupancy over the last several years will have a positive impact on the long-term outlook in occupancy here at Five Star.”

The company plans to sell some communities in 2016, and some skilled nursing beds in continuing care retirement communities are being converted to private suites for rehabilitation, the CEO said. But the company also continues to look to purchase private-pay communities that are located near its existing communities, Mackey added, and some existing assisted living and memory care communities are being expanded.

“We are close to starting construction on a 48-unit memory care building that will be located next to a CCRC we operate in Delaware,” he said. “In addition, later this year, we expect to start construction of a 100-unit independent living community that will be located right next to an existing 88-unit assisted living and memory care community we operate in Tennessee.”

New competition in some of the markets in which Five Star operates is affecting the company's results, said Chief Operating Officer Scott Herzig.

“We expect to continue to experience some impact of this increase in new construction throughout 2016,” he said. “That said, we have been extremely proactive in these areas by making the necessary capital investments to not only ensure we maintain our ability to compete, but also showcase what makes our communities different and better than any new competition that opens their doors.”

Differentiators, Herzig said, include “clinical excellence that produced 19 American Health Care Association quality awards in 2015 and other programs like our award-winning celebrity chef dining program and our renowned resident engagement program, Lifestyle360. These programs highlight just a few of the many advantages of living at a Five Star community as opposed to staying at home or with a competitor. And we will continue to be aggressive in our approach to get our message out.”

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