The first quarter of 2023 provided strong operational results, which were impacted by the translation of both SEK and NOK FX -rates to euro. The strong operating results included like-for-like net rental income, which increased 9.4% in Q1/2023 over the same time last year. This was a result of indexation (6.8% on average) and bolstered by strong tenant sales and footfall as like-for-like metrics improved 6.2% and 7.6%, respectively. Our retail occupancy climbed to 95.4% (Q1/2022: 95.1%), while leasing spreads kept pace with indexation. The combination of these factors resulted in an increase in average rent per sqm, with comparable FX, of EUR 1.6 to EUR 24.4. Our tenants, the majority of whom are grocery, necessity-based and municipal tenants, benefitted from the growth in sales and footfall, while providing our portfolio with consistency and stability due to their high credit worthiness.
In comparable FX, standing NRI was up 8.7% in Q1/2023 compared to Q1/2022, while Direct Operating Profit improved 7.5% and adjusted EPRA EPS 9.0% in the first quarter. The decline in NOK and SEK versus the EUR are near historical lows and negatively impacted our net rental income by 2.4 million. However, the underlying business of our assets remain strong as evidenced by our operational results and increased asset values during the quarter, resulting in a EUR 44.7 million fair value gain in our investment properties over Q4/2022.
As it relates to the balance sheet, we are very pleased to announce the refinancing and expansion of our credit facility, which was due in June 2024. This new, sustainability-linked facility matures in 2026 with the potential for an extension to 2027 and has expanded from EUR 500 million to EUR 650 million, consisting of a EUR 400 million revolver and EUR 250 million term loan, the proceeds of which will be used to continue to address our near-term maturities. The facility is secured by Iso Omena and four Norwegian assets at current market valuations and carries attractive terms that provide for continued financial flexibility. All five current Nordic lenders increased their commitments, while a sixth international bank was added to further strengthen the banking group. This credit facility expansion is an important milestone for our financing plan and commitment to remaining investment grade as it confirms lender understanding of the stability of our business model, provides a transaction record to support current valuations, and provides ample liquidity to continue to improve our maturity schedule and our balance sheet.
To that end, we continued to remain active in repurchasing debt in the first quarter. As noted in our year-end 2022 update, we executed a tender to repurchase a combination of senior and hybrid bonds. In that transaction, we deployed EUR 41.4 million of cash to repurchase EUR 57.4 million of notional bonds. In addition, we continued repurchasing bonds in the open market in the first quarter and repurchased EUR 22.5 million of notional 2024 bond for approx. EUR 21.7 million of cash and a yield of approx. 4%. Through these actions, we continue to mitigate the earnings impact of higher current market interest rates, while also improving our overall balance sheet. We were encouraged that the rating agencies took note of our balance sheet activities as S&P reaffirmed our investment grade credit rating and outlook of BBB-/stable in April.
In addition, we continue our efforts on our remaining, non-core asset sale target of approx. EUR 380 million – reflecting the EUR 120 million of assets we sold in December 2022 – and have confidence that we will meet that target by the end of 2024, particularly as the debt markets improve for potential buyers and as evidenced by the success of the placement of the term loan we have just announced.
We opened the remaining three residential towers in Lippulaiva in the first quarter of 2023 and are pleased with their leasing progress. These residential units will create additional demand for the property and diversify Citycon’s revenue streams. In addition, and subsequent to quarter end, we have decided to temporarily close Torvbyen, a small non-core asset in Norway, as a precautionary measure due to an investigation into movement in the building. While we do not have the full scope of the remediation plan or timeline for the asset to remain closed, our team is working diligently on the ground to address the issue.
In summary, the first quarter was one of the strongest operationally in the company’s history and the underlying business continues to perform exceptionally well, despite negative impacts from both the NOK and SEK currencies in the first quarter. While macroeconomic uncertainties remain, our strategy of owning necessity-based, mixed-use assets with excellent access to transportation in the largest and fastest Nordic cities will continue to produce solid results for the rest of 2023 and in the years to come. As a result of this outlook and our Q1/2023 performance, we are reaffirming our 2023 guidance.
F. Scott Ball
Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Source: Citycon's Interim Report Q1/2023