SINGAPORE (Jan 29): The manager of Ascott Residence Trust (Ascott REIT) has declared a distribution per unit (DPU) of 2.15 cents for 4Q18, up 5% from 2.04 cents in 4Q17 due to higher revenue.

Revenue for 4Q grew 2% to $136.5 million from $134.5 million a year ago, mainly due to additional revenue from Ascott Orchard Singapore, which was acquired in Oct 2017, as well as higher revenue from existing properties.

Key markets with strong operating performance included the US, where demand and revenue grew from upgraded apartments at Sheraton Tribeca New York Hotel.

Gross profit grew in China and Japan on the back of more guests on long stay, and stronger corporate and leisure demand in Tokyo, respectively.

The topline growth was offset in part by the absence of revenue from divested properties, namely 18 rental housing properties in Tokyo, Japan, as well as Citadines Biyun Shanghai and Citadines Gaoxin Xi’an in China.  

Finance costs for the quarter fell 3% to $11.9 million from $12.2 million a year ago, as a result of refinancing of medium-term notes at lower interest rates.

The latest set of results brings the Ascott REIT’s full-year DPU to 7.16 cents, notching up 1% y-o-y from 7.09 cents on a record-high FY18 distribution of $154.8 million due to contributions from acquisitions made in 2017 and higher contributions from existing properties.

This also represents Ascott REIT’s third consecutive year of record-high unitholders’ distribution, which the REIT manager attributes to its efforts in building a geographically diversified portfolio of quality properties.

“Enhancing unitholders’ returns through proactive asset management, including refurbishing our properties and leveraging technology, continues to be our priority. Our refurbished properties have not only created a better experience for guests, average daily rates for these properties have also increased about 10% to 20% due to stronger demand,” says Beh Siew Kim, CEO of the manager.

“While there are mixed views regarding further interest rate hikes in 2019, any possible increase is not expected to have any significant impact to Ascott Reit’s total returns. We maintain a disciplined and prudent approach towards capital management, with 80% of Ascott Reit’s total borrowings on fixed interest rates and a well-spread debt maturity where less than 5% of debt will mature in 2019,” she adds.

Units in Ascott REIT closed 1 cent higher at $1.17 on Monday.