Head of Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust to step down

The head of Corporate Office Properties Trust plans to step down in May, the Columbia-based real estate investment firm announced Friday as it reported its end of year earnings.

Roger A. Waesche Jr., who has led the company since 2012 as it fought to emerge from the recession and tightened federal spending, will be replaced by the real estate investment trust's chief operating officer, Stephen E. Budorick.

While Waesche has been with COPT for more than 30 years, Budorick joined the firm in 2011 after a career in asset management.

"In Steve we have the ideal person with the vision to lead COPT forward," said Thomas F. Brady, who chairs COPT's board, in a statement. "He is a proven leader whose deep operating experience and track record of creating value will enable the company to benefit from more predictable growth fueled by developing primarily for customers in our Defense/IT locations."

COPT owned 157 office buildings and a data center at the end of 2015. It has been selling suburban properties, including several in the Baltimore area, in an effort to focus on its core base of defense-related tenants. Last year, it acquired office buildings in Baltimore, including the Transamerica tower.

"Roger led COPT through a pivotal time of transition. Among his many accomplishments, he enhanced our strategic focus by repositioning our portfolio and improved our financial strength by reducing debt and obtaining investment-grade credit ratings," Brady said. "We are grateful for his many years of contributions, which have helped position COPT for long-term success."

On a call with analysts, Budorick said he intended to continue the firm's strategy and beat back what he described as a misperception that demand for its properties will slacken amid on-base building at Fort Meade.

"The reality is that the National Business Park will grow as the fort's missions expand," he said.

COPT shares closed up five cents for the day at $20.91.

The firm's earnings in 2015's fourth quarter increased to $55.8 million, or 59 cents per share, from $1.3 million, or a penny a share in 2014. For the full year, income was $164.1 million, or $1.74 per share, a turnaround from $22.6 million, or 25 cents per share, in 2014.

Revenues in the last three months of 2015 were $143.3 million, down from $147 million in 2014. For the year, revenues reached $625.5 million, up from $586.5 million in 2014. The firm said it gained $68 million from property sales for 2015, much of that in the fourth quarter.

Operating expenses rose to $123.3 million in the fourth quarter, up from $109.8 million in the same period in 2014. For the year, expenses were $505.4 million, up from $454.9 million in 2014.

Funds from operations per share, a metric preferred by real estate investment trusts, increased slightly to 34 cents in the fourth quarter, up from 31 cents during the same period in 2014. For the year, funds from operations per share increased to $2.55, from $1.69 in 2014.

nsherman@baltsun.com

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