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Research & Methodology

To identify and rank Hawaii’s landowners, the researchers used a database of real property tax-assessed values for four counties (Honolulu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai). The assessments from these counties (with values as of October 1, 2005) were downloaded into a database-management program.

The researchers also reviewed: annual reports; SEC filings; DCCA Business Registration records; assessment office tax maps and records; Bureau of Conveyances documents; and other publications. Information was confirmed with company representatives, when possible.

The list was finalized in August 2006. The final database is the only consistent, comprehensive and publicly available measure of value for all Hawaii real estate.

For real property tax purposes, assessors estimate the value of every parcel in the state. Assessments are derived in a consistent manner and as of a common point in time. Given the large number of properties involved, the assessors apply a mass appraisal approach using standard methodology, cost and market valuation models, common reference data and statistical testing.

One drawback to the database is that assessments represent a proxy for fee simple values; there is no division of value between leased fee (lessor) and leasehold (lessee) interests. This is significant in a market where ground leases are prevalent. Therefore, 100 percent of value is assigned to the fee owner of record. This allocation tends to inflate values associated with many top Hawaii landowners, who lease the majority of their properties in the short term. That said, the attribution of value to the lessor more accurately reflects long-term ownership and control of the asset.

Although the obvious adjustment is to divide land and building values between lessor and lessee, consider the scenario in which a ground lease expires in less than a year. There would be nominal, zero or possibly negative values associated with the leasehold position.

Another obstacle is that ownership is often held in different entity names. In some cases, database entries were simply misspelled. Best efforts were made to research corporate subsidiaries and refine the database information. Partial or partnership interests also added another level of complication. Unless clearly denoted, partial interests were typically assigned to the dominant owner. In other cases, properties held by joint ventures were excluded.

Special-use properties, such as power plants, churches and schools, are difficult to evaluate. These assessments are typically exempt from property taxes. Hawaiian Electric Industry’s ranking may change in the future as certain assessments continue to be reviewed.

Also note that the figures represent total value before consideration of debt or other encumbrances on the properties.

In addition to thanking Tradewind Capital Partners for their research, Hawaii Business thanks the heads of the county assessment offices: Gary Kurokawa (Honolulu); Wes Takai (Big Island); Lance Okumura (Maui); and John Herring (Kauai) for their ongoing assistance.

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