What Makes Realty Income (O) a Good Business?
Realty Income is a Real Estate Income Trust (REIT) operating mainly in the retail business (79.5% of rental income) along with a small diversification in industrial and office businesses. The company focuses on acquiring freestanding, single-tenant properties under long-term, net lease agreements. It has built the bulk of their business through purchasing Real Estate from potential client to lease them back to them.
Realty Income owns over 4,900 properties with 47 different lines of businesses. Their three largest segments of business in term of rental income are Drug Stores (11.1%), Convenience Stores (9.9%) and Dollar Stores (8.0%). Their three most important states are Texas (9.7%), California (9.4%) and Florida (5.9%).
Revenue Graph from Ycharts
As you can see, O is on a solid streak for growth since 2012. The company is using a growth by acquisition strategy and has been increasing its asset size by $9.3 billions since 2010 with $1.86 billions acquisition in 2016. Management still has access to a $2 billion acquisition credit facility for future purchases. While the 2013-2017 growth trend is unsustainable, you can expect O to continue showing stronger revenues in the upcoming years.
How O fares vs My 7 Principles of Investing
We all have our methods for analyzing a company. Over the years of trading, I’ve been through several stock research methodologies from various sources. This is how I came up with my 7 investing principles of dividend investing. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Principle #1: High Dividend Yield Doesn’t Equal High Returns
My first investment principle goes against many income seeking investors’ rule: I try to avoid most companies with a dividend yield over 5%. Very few investments like this will be made in my case (you can read my case against high dividend yield here). The reason is simple; when a company pays a high dividend, it’s because the market thinks it’s a risky investment… or that the company has nothing else but a constant cash flow to offer its investors. However, high yield hardly come with dividend growth and this is what I am seeking most.
Source: Data from Ycharts.
Realty Income has maintained a relatively high yield since 2012, but nothing seems out of control. In fact, the recent stock price rise since 2014 brought the dividend yield below the 5% level while the dividend payment continued to raise.
O meets my 1st investing principles.
Principle #2: Focus on Dividend Growth
Speaking of which, my second investing principle relates to dividend growth as being the most important metric of all. It proves management’s trust in the company’s future and is also a good sign of a sound business model. Over time, a dividend payment cannot be increased if the company is unable to increase its earnings. Steady earnings can’t be derived from anything else but increasing revenue. Who doesn’t want to own a company that shows rising revenues and earnings?
O shows an impressive track record of almost 47 years with dividend payments along with 21 consecutives years with a dividend increase. During this period, O is showing a compound average annual growth rate of 4.7%. This is more than enough to beat inflation. Another nice feature for income seeking investors is that O pays its dividend on a monthly basis making it easier to manage one’s budget.
O meets my 2nd investing principle.
Principle #3: Find Sustainable Dividend Growth Stocks
Past dividend growth history is always interesting and tells you a lot about what happened with a company. As investors, we are more concerned about the future than the past. this is why it is important to find companies that will be able to sustain their dividend growth.
Source: data from Ycharts.
It is a little bit more different to analyse REIT than other stocks. While I consider the payout and cash payout ratio for other companies, I must focus on FFO (funds from operations) and AFFO payout ratios. The first graph shows you that management makes a good job raising the dividend according to the FFO trend.
The following graph has been created from O 2016 financial statements. It shows that their payout ratios are not only under control, but they are both decreasing from 92% and 91% in 2009 to 83% for both ratios in 2016.
O meets my 3rd investing principle.
Principle #4: The Business Model Ensure Future Growth
I like Realty Income diversification model where management leaves very little room for uncertainty. Their top 20 tenants represent 53% of their rental income spread across 11 different industries. It also shows a steady occupancy rate in the 98’s with a 99% recapture of expiring rents rate since 1996.
Beyond the REIT diversification, I like its growth by acquisition strategy ensuring higher revenues and dividend payment over time even more. O has developed a strong expertise in growing their property portfolio on a steady and sustainable manner. Through this strategy, they roughly double the number of property owned every 10 years.
Finally, the big talk about the retail REIT industry right now is all about finding ecommerce resilient tenants. We are very aware of classic stores such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) growth challenges by Amazon (AMZN) of this world. In this category, O is making an effort and shows an interesting mix of tenants. This is not the most ecommerce proof REIT I’ve seen (NNN is definitely ahead in this category), but it still makes good figures.
O still shows a strong business model and meets my 4th investing principle.
Principle #5: Buy When You Have Money in Hand – At The Right Valuation
I think the perfect timing to buy stocks is when you have money. Sleeping money is always a bad investment. However, it doesn’t mean that you should buy everything you see because you have some savings aside. There is a valuation work to be done. In order to achieve this task, I will start by looking at how the stock market valued the stock over the past 10 years by looking at its PE ratio:
Source: data from Ycharts.
While the PE ratio is not exactly the best metrics to evaluate a REIT, you can see how it makes little sense to purchase a stock at a 50 multiplier. The stock price seems high considering its historical valuation.
Digging deeper into this stock valuation, I will use a double stage dividend discount model. As a dividend growth investor, I rather see companies like big money-making machine and assess their value as such. I used a 4.5% dividend growth rate for the first 10 years which is in line with the company history growth rate. As the business will have a hard time continue growing at the past 4 years pace, I expect the terminal growth rate to reduce to 4%.
Here are the details of my calculations:
As we often see on the market, there is a price to pay for quality stocks. This seems to be the case for O as both valuation methods show it is currently overvalued.
O DOES NOT my 5th investing principle with a potential upside of 33%
Principle #6: The Rationale Used to Buy is Also Used to Sell
I’ve found that one of the biggest investor struggles is to know when to buy and sell his holdings. I use a very simple, but very effective rule to overcome my emotions when it is the time to pull the trigger. My investment decisions are motivated by the fact that the company confirms or not my investment thesis. Once the reasons (my investment thesis) why I purchase shares of a company are not valid anymore, I sell and never look back.
While O is currently overvalued according to our model, an investment in this company today still makes sense. If you are looking for a steady high yielder in your portfolio, an investment in O makes total sense. You will benefit from a company that is geographically diversified and that has focused on tenants with limited exposure to ecommerce threats.
Realty Income shows a stellar dividend growth history leading me to think the payout will continue to increase in the rage of 4% to 4.5% each year for several years to come. O seems a great fit for any income seeking investors.
O shows a solid investment thesis and meet my 6th investing principle.
Principle #7: Think Core, Think Growth
My investing strategy is divided into two segments: the core portfolio built with strong & stable stocks meeting all our requirements. The second part is called the “dividend growth stock addition” where I may ignore one of the metrics mentioned in principles #1 to #5 for a greater upside potential (e.g. riskier pick as well).
When you purchase a REIT, you don’t expect its stock price to compete against AAPL growth. Realty Income does use a growth by acquisition strategy to generate value for its shareholders but don’t expect the stock price to soar anytime soon, especially with the current valuation. However, you can expect O to pay a better yield than most bonds with a nice increase each year.
O is a core holding.
Final Thoughts on O – Buy, Hold or Sell?
In the light of my analysis, I conclude that O is a very interesting company but not at this valuation. I think that if you are in the search for additional income in your portfolio, it should be on your watch list, but you could certainly benefit from a better entry point in the future.
Disclaimer: I do not hold O in my DividendStocksRock portfolios but intend to purchase the stock.
The opinions and the strategies of the author are not intended to ever be a recommendation to buy or sell a security. The strategy the author uses has worked for him and it is for you to decide if it could benefit your financial future. Please remember to do your own research and know your risk tolerance.