Q1 2024 Chicago Atlantic Real Estate Finance Inc Earnings Call

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Participants

Tripp Sullivan; Investor Relations; SCR Partners, LLC

John Mazarakis; Executive Chairman of the Board; Chicago Atlantic Real Estate Finance Inc

Peter Sack; Co-President, Director; Chicago Atlantic Real Estate Finance Inc

Phillip Silverman; Interim Chief Financial Officer, Company Secretary; Chicago Atlantic Real Estate Finance Inc

Mark Smith; Analyst; Lake Street Capital Markets, LLC

Presentation

Operator

Good day, and thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Chicago Atlantic real estate financing First Quarter 2020 for earnings call. (Operator Instructions) . Once again, please be advised that today’s conference is being recorded,
And I would now like to hand the conference over to your first speaker today, Tripp Sullivan with Investor Relations. You may begin.

Tripp Sullivan

Thank you. Good morning and welcome to the Chicago Atlantic Real Estate Finance conference call to review the Company’s results. On the call today will be John Menzer, Atlas Executive Chairman, Peter Sachse, Co-Chief Executive Officer, and Phil Silverman, Chief Financial Officer, our results were released this morning in our earnings press release, which can be found on the Investor Relations section of our website, along with our supplemental filed with the SEC, a live audio webcast of this call is being made available today. For those who listen to the replay of this webcast, we remind you that the remarks made herein are as of today and will not be updated subsequent to this call.
During this call, certain comments and statements we make may be deemed forward-looking statements within the meaning prescribed by the securities laws, including statements related to the future performance of our portfolio, our pipeline of potential loans and other investments, future dividends and financing activities.
All forward-looking statements represent currently in its judgment as of the date of this conference call and are subject to risks and uncertainties that can cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations. Investors are urged to carefully review various disclosures made by the Company, including the risks and other information disclosed in the Company’s filings with the SEC.
We also will discuss certain non-GAAP measures, including but not limited to distributable earnings and adjusted distributable earnings. Definitions of these non-GAAP measures and reconciliations to the most comparable GAAP measures are included in our filings with the SEC.
I’ll now turn the call over to John Menzer. Please go ahead.

John Mazarakis

Thanks to good morning, everyone. We started 2024 for much like we ended 2023, growing the loan portfolio in a disciplined fashion, maintaining strong credit quality and an attractive weighted average portfolio yield and diversifying across operators and states.
The biggest news on the regulatory front was, of course, last week’s announcement that the FDA has pledged to reschedule cannabis. We’re thrilled by this significant step in the process. Once enacted, the policy change is likely to bring significant benefits to the industry, including the elimination of two, 80 that we discussed last quarter, increased access to capital and increase employment and investments. The state level news on legalization continues to remain positive as well.
With the Florida Supreme Court recently approving ballot language to have a referendum in front of voters in November and Ohio likely to have their recreational rollout soon. We’re staying in front of these developments in both states as well as in PA. Our pipeline of actionable deals across the Chicago Atlantic platform currently stands at $585 million, with our focus remaining on operators in limited license states and those transitioning from medical to adult use for the last two quarters, we’ve called out the improving sentiment in the cannabis industry that has translated into loan demand and has helped in accessing additional capital to deploy.
Peter will touch on our expansion of the credit facility, but I’d like to highlight our use of the ATM in an accretive fashion. During the quarter, we issued approximately 896,000 shares through the ATM program at a weighted average price of 1593, raising net proceeds of approximately $13.9 million. Most importantly, we sold those shares at a premium to book value. The same discipline we brought to underwriting new opportunities is the same one we’ve used to determine the best time and manner to access capital.
Peter, why don’t you take it from here?

Peter Sack

Thank you and good morning. At March 31st, our loan portfolio had total commitments of $401 million across 28 portfolio companies with a weighted average yield to maturity of 19.4%, which remained consistent with December 31st, our weighted average loan to enterprise value was 40.5% compared with 44.1% at year end. We had another strong quarter of gross originations with $22.5 million of principal fundings, of which $6.7 million and $15.8 million was funded to new borrowers existing borrowers, respectively.
We had no unscheduled principal repayments during the quarter. Our portfolio remains predominantly floating rate with 77% of the portfolio based off of the prime rate. We continue to pursue floating rate loans with floor set at the prevailing prime rate. And we have seven fixed rate loans in the portfolio with a weighted average yield on the fixed rate loans of 18.9 balance sheet retains low leverage at 28% of book equity compared with 24% at year end.
Our debt service coverage ratio on a consolidated basis for the quarter was approximately five to one compared with a requirement of 1.35 to one. As noted on the Q4 call, we extended the maturity of our credit facility to June 2026 and increase the accordion up to $150 million. As of March 31st, we had $82.3 million outstanding on the revolving credit facility, and we subsequently drawn down another $1.5 million. That leaves us a total of approximately $22 million in operational liquidity net of estimated liabilities.
I’ll now turn it over to Phil.

Phillip Silverman

Thanks, Pierre. Our net interest income for the first quarter declined sequentially from the fourth quarter of 2023 from $14.8 million to $13.2 million or 10.8%. However, gross interest income from recurring cash interest pick interest, unused fees and amortization of discounts increased by $0.2 million for the comparable period. The sequential decline results primarily from the lack of unscheduled principal payments during the quarter, which generated no prepayment fees compared with $11 million of repayments during the fourth quarter of 2023, which generated $1.8 million of prepayment fee income.
Prepayments on our loans remain idiosyncratic in the first quarter was representative of the portfolio’s run-rate performance Additionally, interest expense increased by 413,000 or 24.5% as a result of greater at weighted average borrowings. The company had $81.3 million outstanding on the credit facility as of March 31st compared with $66 million as of December 31st, 2023. Total operating expenses before the provision for credit losses decreased approximately $1.6 million from Q4 2023, primarily resulting from the decrease in management and incentive fees of $1.5 million.
Other administrative and professional fees remained consistent. Our CECL reserve as of March 31st was approximately $5.4 million compared with $5 million as of December 31st, 2023 an increase of approximately [400,000] on a relative size basis. Our reserve for expected credit losses represents 1.4% of outstanding principal at both March 31st and December 31st, 2023.
Credit quality of the portfolio also remained stable with 78% and 77% of the portfolio risk-rated three or better as of March 31st and December 31st, we downgraded the risk rating for one position from a two to a three during the quarter. While we closely monitor its performance. However, the loan continues to perform and meet its debt service obligations. Loan number nine remains on nonaccrual status and it’s included in risk rating for and carries a reserve for credit losses of approximately $1.3 million.
Approximately 66% of the portfolio based on outstanding principle is fully secured by real estate collateral. 30% is partially secured with the remaining 4% having no real estate collateral. Our portfolio on a weighted average basis had real estate coverage of 1.3 times as of March 31st compared with 1.5 times as of December 31st, 2023. The real estate coverage ratio decline is partially driven by the funding of loan number 31, which is secured by collateral other than real estate adjusted distributable earnings per weighted average diluted share was $0.52 for Q1 2024 compared with $0.53 for the fourth quarter ended December 31st,
In April, we distributed the first quarter regular dividend declared by our Board of $0.47 per common share, which was consistent with the prior quarter and the first quarter of last year. Our book value as of March 31st was $14.97 per common share compared with 1494 as of December 31st. The sequential increase in book value is due to first quarter basic earnings per share in excess of the regular quarterly dividend of $0.47 and accretion from the issuance of common stock at a premium to book value.
Lastly, we affirmed our guidance we issued in conjunction with our Q4 release. Operator, we’re now ready to take questions again.

Question and Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions)
Mark Smith with Lake Street.

Mark Smith

I guess I just wanted to ask a kind of big picture question here. As we think about DEA scheduling, can you just give us more insight into the short and long term impacts primarily on your business, more so than kind of the broader cannabis industry, including kind of longer term, increased competition that could come in the lending space.

John Mazarakis

Thanks, Mark. And we don’t expect anything to change with respect to the announcement for another 18 to 24 months. Our CEO, Patrick and Towers Watson had a very nice report prepared on and this is just the first step and nothing has really been accomplished yet. So we’re just waiting to see. And so I think any impact is, you know, or when there’s an impact to be after the 24 month mark,

Mark Smith

as we think about it. I know there’s just a lot of unknowns on what could really happen, though. You’re obviously a lot of positives on that come from this for the entire industry. But anything you can speak to as you look at the competition for you guys and maybe how that landscape changes over time with this? Or is or would we have would it need to be more regulatory changes to see kind of traditional lenders and others going to come more into the space.

John Mazarakis

I think Mark, more of the latter I can sit here and just be speculative. The truth is based on multiple recent deals out there we’ve seen across the platform and there are no signs of competition so that that’s the report based on data from animal at more speculative basis, obviously, capital is efficient and at some point, likely probably after 24 months on will we will start seeing and compression. So I can I can speak further to that point.

Mark Smith

Okay. That’s that’s fair. And then just any any changes you know, as we look at the industry and kind of what’s happening with operators out there today, any changes here in the near term that you guys saw over the quarter positive or negative or any maybe even any states to call out that are maybe picking up?

Peter Sack

I think our interaction with operators has been very positive. I think the credit worthiness is improving as we can see from the public markets just purely on a multiple basis, but more importantly, and we only deal with some operators that kind of meet the criteria that we set forth in the last 24 months. The credits have been very, very strong. Ebitda has been very strong and some we haven’t really focused in any early stage operations there’s plenty of capital to be deployed in mature businesses with meaningful EBITDA numbers.

Mark Smith

Excellent. Thank you.

Peter Sack

Thank you.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) One moment for our next question. One moment, please.
We are showing no further questions at this time.
Thank you so much for your participation in today’s call. Feel free to follow up with any questions you may have. This does conclude our program. You may now disconnect.