REIT all about itCameron McCormack, Manager - Investments19 October 2020
The recovery in equity markets, from the sudden and severe drop in March, has been remarkable but it has not been uniform.
International real estate investment trusts (REITs), as an asset class, was hit hard and the recovery of the market benchmark, the FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged, has not yet matched international equity markets.
Australian investors remain wary of companies with revenues tied to economic activity such as retail, which dominate the local market, and have been the hardest hit as a result of restrictive lock-downs.
It’s important to remember that international REITs are a far more diverse category than Australian REITs, including sectors such as healthcare, self-storage and data centres. Many of these companies’ operations have continued to hold-up well during this period and thus represent an opportunity.
Rent collections too have started to improve and we think this has yet to be reflected in prices. Additionally, we believe that in time, office and industrial use will return to pre-COVID-19 levels which will see a rebound in these assets too.
REIT all about it! With market participants expecting continued low rates and a low growth environment as the global economy emerges from this crisis, now could be the time to set your portfolio to rebuild and allocate a portion to listed international real estate securities.
Global property’s rental returns green shoots
When markets retreated in March, international property was among the worst sectors hit. While equities have led a recovery, international property has lagged.
Figure 1: 2020 calender year to date index performance
Source FTSE, 31 Dec 2019 to 12 October 2020. Rebased to 100. Indices used, International Property: FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged - results assume immediate reinvestment of all dividends and exclude costs associated with investing in the ETF and taxes; Global equities: MSCI World ex Australia Index; Australian equities: S&P/ASX 200 Index. You cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
As you would predict, retail and hotels have been among the worst hit sectors in international real estate despite the fact there is evidence rental collections are improving.
Figure 2: International property sub sector year to date performance
Source: Bloomberg, Facstet; 31 Dec 2019 to 30 September 2020.
Figure 3: Rental reciepts improving - % of Pre-COVID Rent Collection (USA)
Source: FTSE, NAREIT.
With international property returns being so strong for most of the last decade, value opportunities have been hard to come by. Likewise, investors requiring income from their portfolios had a difficult time given the downward trajectory of interest rates. With most economies experiencing low or negative real rates and central banks using unconventional programs in order to stimulate their economies, income investors will have an even harder time as the economy recovers. Against this backdrop, international property can provide both a value and income opportunity.
International property is now at its cheapest level in 11 years, and the dividend yield has remained steady. Despite falling yields elsewhere you can see in figure 5, the dividend yield on the REIT Index is relatively high at 4.54% as at 30 September 2020. The 12-month trailing yield rose significantly in March 2020 due to the fall in asset prices and while there has been some REITs that have reduced dividends, we believe a large cohort will not do this, meaning we still anticipate a reliable and attractive income stream.
Figure 4: International property index price to Net Tangible Asset Value (NTA)
Price relative to value of equity value. Lowest point in 11 years
Source: Bloomberg as at 30 September 2020 International property index is FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged.
Figure 5: 12 Month Trailing Dividend Yield
International property index dividend yield has remained steady despite falling interest rates and bond yields
Source: Indices used - MSCI World Index is MSCI World ex Australia Index, REIT Index is FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged, US Govt Bond 10 Yr yield is US Gerneric Govt 10 Yr (USGG10YR Index). You cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance of the REIT Index is not a reliable indicator of future performance of REIT. Trailing dividend yield is not a guarantee of future dividends payable from REIT.
While there has been some pullback, we think REITs still have a long way to go, especially in the context of previous REIT rallies. Compared to the most recent rallies in the aftermath of the GFC and the various debt crises, figure 7 shows that REITs have better fundamentals emerging from COVID-19.
Figure 6: Analysis of historical REIT rallies
Source: Bloomberg Morgan Stanley Research. Index is FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Index AUD Hedged.
Figure 7: Leverage – Debt / Assets
Leverage still well below GFC levels
Source: Bloomberg, as at 30 September 2020 Indices used: MSCI World Index is MSCI World ex Australia Index. REIT Index is FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged. You cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
Diversification is key
It important to remember US, Europe and Asia offer real estate investment opportunities not readily available in Australia, including lodging/resorts, healthcare, self-storage and data centres.
Figure 8: Global Property Sector breakdown
FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged (%)
Figure 9: Australian Property Sector breakdown
S&P/ASX 200 A-REIT Index (%)
Source for Figures 8 and 9: FTSE, Factset as at 30 September 2020.
Want one trade access to over 300 international listed property securities?
Discover VanEck Vectors FTSE International Property (Hedged) ETF
(ASX code: REIT)Issued by VanEck Investments Limited ACN 146 596 116 AFSL 416755 (‘VanEck’). Nothing in this content is a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell shares of any investment in any jurisdiction including where the offer or solicitation would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction. This is general advice only, not personal financial advice. It does not take into account any person’s individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Read the PDS and speak with a financial adviser to determine if the fund is appropriate for your circumstances. The PDS is available here, and details the key risks. No member of the VanEck group of companies guarantees the repayment of capital, the payment of income, performance, or any particular rate of return from the fund.An investment in REIT carries risks associated with: financial markets generally, individual company management, industry sectors, ASX trading time differences, foreign currency, currency hedging, country or sector concentration, political, regulatory and tax risks, fund operations, liquidity and tracking an index. See the PDS for details.REIT is not in any way sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by FTSE International Limited or the London Stock Exchange Group companies (‘LSEG’) (together the ‘Licensor Parties’) and none of the Licensor Parties make any claim, prediction, warranty or representation whatsoever, expressly or impliedly, either as to (i) the results to be obtained from the use of the FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed ex Australia Rental Index AUD Hedged (‘Index’) upon which the Fund is based, (ii) the figure at which the Index is said to stand at any particular time on any particular day or otherwise, or (iii) the suitability of the Index for the purpose to which it is being put in connection with the Fund. None of the Licensor Parties have provided or will provide any financial or investment advice or recommendation in relation to the Index to VanEck or to its clients. The Index is calculated by FTSE or its agent. None of the Licensor Parties shall be (a) liable (whether in negligence or otherwise) to any person for any error in the Index or (b) under any obligation to advise any person of any error therein. All rights in the Index vest in FTSE. “FTSE®” is a trademark of LSEG and is used by FTSE and VanEck under license.