March 30, 2009
Forest City Enterprises announces losses, asserts that AY arena is one of only two new projects to launch in 2009
Atlantic Yards Report
It's a very busy day over at AYR. First the appeal of the environmental lawsuit, now Forest City's latest earnings report.
In another sign that the Atlantic Yards project is crucial to its struggling business, Forest City Enterprises (FCE) today announced in its year-end fiscal results that it would continue to significantly slow development, anticipating that it would commence construction on only two new projects, "the arena at our Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, and a fee-based development project in Las Vegas."
However, there are several doubts regarding arena construction, including pending legal cases disregarded by the developer and the availability of financing. While Forest City is indeed closer to starting construction than in previous years, consider that in 2007, for example, FCE CEO Chuck Ratner and other executives asserted that the arena would open in 2009, and New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark has consistently shifted the goalposts.
In fact, in a 10-K document filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the developer acknowledges that 2011 is hardly certain:
The Nets are currently operating at a loss and are projected to continue to operate at a loss at least as long as they remain in New Jersey, which is expected to be until at least 2011, and possibly longer.
The 10-K document also acknowledges the potential for continued delays:
Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. We are in the process of developing Brooklyn Atlantic Yards, a long-term $4.0 billion mixed-use project in downtown Brooklyn expected to feature a state of the art sports and entertainment arena for the Nets basketball team, a franchise of the NBA. The acquisition and development of Brooklyn Atlantic Yards has been formally approved by the required state governmental authorities but final documentation of the transactions are subject to the completion of negotiations with local and state governmental authorities, including negotiation of the applicable development documentation and public subsidies. Pre-construction activities have commenced for the potential removal, remediation or other activities to address environmental contamination at, on, under or emanating to or from the land. There is also one lawsuit pending challenging the use of eminent domain which may not be resolved in our favor resulting in Brooklyn Atlantic Yards not being developed at all or not being developed with the features we anticipate. As a result of the foregoing, this project has experienced delays and may continue to experience further delays. There is also the potential for increased costs and delays to the project as a result of (i) increasing construction costs, (ii) scarcity of labor and supplies, (iii) our inability to obtain tax-exempt financing or the availability of financing or public subsidies, or our inability to retain the current land acquisition financing, (iv) our or our partners’ inability or failure to meet required equity contributions, (v) increasing rates for financings, (vi) loss of arena sponsorships and related revenues and (vii) other potential litigation seeking to enjoin or prevent the project or litigation for which there may not be insurance coverage. The development of Brooklyn Atlantic Yards is being done in connection with the proposed move of the Nets to the planned arena. The arena itself (and its plans) along with any movement of the team is subject to approval by the NBA, which we may not receive. If any of the foregoing risks were to occur, we may not be able to develop Brooklyn Atlantic Yards to the extent intended or at all. Even if we are able to continue with the development, we would likely not be able to do so as quickly as originally planned.
The importance of AY
Atlantic Yards has a significant upside for the developer, not only the control of a "great piece of real estate" (in Chuck Ratner's words) but the opportunity to stanch significant losses on the operation of the Nets, $35 million in the past year. A new arena would bring new revenues and also raise the value of the team, which has actually declined since an ownership group led by Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner bought the team in 2004.
So Atlantic Yards will be a fight to the finish, as the developer anticipates "continued challenging business conditions in 2009."
The remainder of the article briefly parses some of the highlights of FCE's earnings report, as they relate to Atlantic Yards.
Posted by eric at March 30, 2009 10:41 AM