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In Forest City conference call, Atlantic Yards cited as example of FY 2009 milestones

A relieved and optimistic--but still cautious--set of Forest City Enterprises (FCE) executives held their quarterly (and annual) conference call yesterday with investment analysts, and Atlantic Yards was highlighted as an emblematic success of the past fiscal year, which ended 1/31/10.

Moreover, in the Q&A segment, unlike in previous calls, the analysts had no questions about Atlantic Yards. From their perspective, it seems, the project is a done deal.

Leading off

FCE CEO Chuck Ratner led off by stating that "we feel a lot better" than they did a year ago and even "three short months ago."

He cited a number of success in the past three months, including the closing of a new revolving line of credit, completed debt exchanges, and "the master closing at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and [we] held a groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena in that project."

AY as example

He singled out "Atlantic Yards alone as one example of what we were able to accomplish in 2009 and early 2010," citing:
  • they "successfully addressed a major land loan" [with Gramercy Capital]
  • "tax-exempt bonds... have been issued at an attractive rate"
  • "lawsuits opposing the project are almost behind us"
  • they "identified a great partner [Mikhail Prokhorov] who plans to take a majority interest [80%] in the team and a significant interest [45%] in the arena"
  • they began construction on the arena
  • and executed the master closing
"It was quite a to-do list, but our New York team, led by Bruce Ratner and Joanne Minieri, achieved all of those milestones," Ratner said.

The Nets and Barclays

Later in the call, Chief Financial Officer Bob O’Brien said that the company's losses from the Nets "should largely be eliminated" as Prokhorov's Onexim investment group assumes the role of majority owner.

He also added that Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights for the arena and renegotiated the deal, gaining a piece of the tax-exempt bond offering, is a new participant among the 15 banks that supply revolving credit to FCE.

The remaining lawsuit

The remaining lawsuit raises issues that were essentially dismissed in a separate case challenging the condemnation of property for Atlantic Yards.

The pending cases faces an oral argument on April 12, so it will be interesting to see whether any new issues are raised. I'll have a more extensive preview next week.

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