News Column

Flush with new cash, St. Joe looks to massive sector plan

August 9, 2014

By Valerie Garman, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.



Aug. 09--WATERSOUND -- This year has been a transformative one for the St. Joe Co.

With two major land sales transactions completed in the first and second quarters of 2014, including the sale of 280,000 acres of timberland and the Jacksonville development RiverTown, St. Joe officials say the company is poised to focus on new ventures.

"Together, the two transactions transformed the company," Chief Executive Officer Park Brady said during a conference call with investors Thursday to discuss the company's second quarter earnings. "We now conduct primarily all of our business in four segments: residential real estate, commercial real estate, resorts, leisure and leasing operations, and forestry."

St. Joe (NYSE: JOE) now owns a total of 182,000 acres of land, located predominately between Tallahassee and Destin.

In addition to the $582 million timberland sale in the first quarter, St. Joe closed on RiverTown in the second quarter for $43.6 million, which Brady said has provided the company with "liquidity and a fortress-like balance sheet" for upcoming projects -- the most significant being a 110,000-acre, long-term development plan in Bay and Walton counties.

The proposed Bay-Walton Sector Plan is an extension of St. Joe's current West Bay Sector Plan and is currently under review by Bay and Walton counties. If the plan is approved, St. Joe intends to develop a large-scale "active adult" retirement community in the area, similar to the Villages in Central Florida.

See the sector plan map

"If approved, we will have 110,000-acre project that will have Gulf, Intracoastal [Waterway], bay and lake access," said Brady, adding the project name, Watersound. "This project will emphasize value, health, activity and environmental stewardship of a very special part of Northwest Florida."

Workshop planned

The Bay County Planning Commission will review St. Joe's application in a public workshop Aug. 21.

Bay County community development director Martin Jacobson said county staff has been working on vetting the proposal for several weeks and transmitted comments to St. Joe for review Thursday.

"Over the past several weeks on the staff level, we've been reviewing the goals, objectives and policies of the comprehensive plan," said Jacobson, noting a few areas of discussion within the proposal. "A lot of the discussion and comments were regarding their stormwater plan. We want to see them more regional in design -- more watershed-based than simply project-based."

Following the Aug. 21 workshop, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan before submitting it to state agencies for approval. The application then will go to a public hearing before the Bay County Commission for final approval.

"We have not encountered any big hurdles or anything that would tell us that this is anything but a process that is moving slowly," Brady said. "It will be at least another nine to 12 months as we go through it. ... I can't say ... if it's a go or no-go because it is a public process right now."

During Thursday's conference call, St. Joe officials also discussed the quarter's results for other company ventures, including the new St. Joe Clubs and Resorts, a consolidation of marinas, golf clubs and resort properties launched earlier this year. Brady reported a 32 percent increase in vacation rental homes since the club's inception.

The company also reported a revenue increase of $1.2 million, or 7 percent, for its resort, leisure and leasing operations for the quarter year-over-year.

Overall, for the second quarter ended June 30, St. Joe reported a pretax income of $23.3 million, compared with $2.7 million the previous year. The company's net income was $14.6 million, and total revenue for the quarter topped $68.2 million, compared with second quarter 2013 results of $2.7 million and $47.8 million, respectively.

St. Joe's Bay County application: Warning, large file

St. Joe's Walton County application: Warning, large file

___

(c)2014 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com

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Source: News Herald (Panama City, FL)


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