Displaying items by tag: reits
An event happened this week in the commercial real estate space that feels as though it might be seen as a canary in the coal mine for the forthcoming real estate crisis. The largest (and probably most famous) mall in the US—Mall of America—just fell behind on its $1.4 bn mortgage payments. The owner of the mall, which features over 500 stores and a theme park, missed its mortgage payments in both April and May, reports the Financial Times via Wells Fargo documentation. The owner, called TripleFive Group, has reported to Wells Fargo that it has suffered hardship because of COVID. Presently, nationwide about 1 in 5 loans bundled in CMBS are now on “watch lists”.
FINSUM: For context here, Macerich, which is one of the biggest mall owners in the country, disclosed that is has only collected 18% of rent it is owed in May.
Hotels are increasingly in trouble. About a quarter of all hotels in the US are now behind on their loan payments. COVID has obviously had a huge effect on hotel occupancy rates, which is now causing financial difficulties for the hotels and their lenders. The situation echoes other data from across the commercial real estate sector. For instance, Vornado Realty Trust yesterday said that it had only collected 53% of retail rents in April, and 90% of office rents.
FINSUM: We think it is critical to remember that re-opening is not a sign that all is clear in commercial real estate. Even once they re-open, restaurants and retail stores are still very likely to be doing MUCH less business than before they closed, and since a lot of cash reserves have probably been used up, their financial situation and thus the sector are just going to grow more precarious.
Retail is dying, right? Brick and mortar is doomed, supposedly, but that assumption creates some opportunity. The reality is that despite the broader headwinds the industry is facing, some malls and some REITs are doing well. Macerich, for instance, is a large REIT that owns several “trophy” malls amidst its 47 properties. The stock is trading at just 7x earnings, which incredibly cheap for a REIT. Apartment REITs, for instance, are trading at 20x. Its dividend cover ratio is fairly tight, but its overall model looks solid and it is yielding 10.9%.
FINSUM: There is a lot of opportunity in retail stocks, but you need to know where to look, and it takes quite an understanding of the space to sift through the options. Macerich looks solid.
If you have been investing in REITs over the last few years, one of the key driving mantras has been the idea that one should move away from brick and mortar-oriented retail REITs and toward those that are more ecommerce-focused. In other words, buy REITs focused on warehouses, not those on malls. However, that arithmetic might be changing, as the big boom in warehousing is now facing headwinds because of the trade war. Recently was the first time in years that “the market didn’t lease to its full potential”, said a trade group in the space. The sector is “uniquely exposed to trade activity and manufacturing activity, which are very much impacted by the tariffs”.
FINSUM: To us this seems more likely to prove a short-term headwind than a long-term issue given the driving force behind warehouse growth is not actually tied to any trade policy, but a broader change in consumption patterns.
Low volatility stocks have been the hero of the volatility over the last year. In the past 12 months, the S&P 500 has returned 3.2%. That compares to a whopping 14% plus for low volatility stocks, such as in the S&P 500 low-vol index. By definition, low volatility stocks are boring (think utilities, insurance, and REITs) and have stable earnings. That works well for defending against market swings, but the protection means that valuations are WAY above their long-term average (three standard deviations above). That said, falling rates are very helpful to this class of stocks, so there is wind at their backs.
FINSUM: Despite quite high valuations, we think low vol stocks will continue to do well so long as the trade war continues to plague markets.