I am a tremendous believer in internet commerce and believe that, for the most part, companies like Amazon.com are going to take a disproportionate amount of the available money in retail. With that, you wouldn’t believe which company I believe is one of the best REITs to own. RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:REI.UN) is a Canadian shopping mall REIT. All told, it has 303 shopping centres that encompass 46 million square feet of space. On the surface, you might guess that owning this stock is dangerous because of the internet. However, unlike other shopping REITs that are focused on strip malls and…
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I am a tremendous believer in internet commerce and believe that, for the most part, companies like Amazon.com are going to take a disproportionate amount of the available money in retail. With that, you wouldn’t believe which company I believe is one of the best REITs to own.
RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (TSX:REI.UN) is a Canadian shopping mall REIT. All told, it has 303 shopping centres that encompass 46 million square feet of space. On the surface, you might guess that owning this stock is dangerous because of the internet. However, unlike other shopping REITs that are focused on strip malls and small operations, RioCan invests in the top shopping centres with the best possible tenants.
For example, anchoring its centres are companies such as Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart, and Cineplex, to name a few. Unlike a small retail operation that may not be able to compete with an internet juggernaut, these companies are more than capable of keeping pace. RioCan doesn’t need to worry about its tenants going out of business.
On the contrary, it appears that its tenants are actually feeling optimistic, leasing even more square footage at higher rates. According to its first-quarter earnings, RioCan renewed one million square feet at an average $1.05 per square foot increase in rent, or 6.2%. Its occupancy also increased to 94.8% in March 2016 from the 93.1% in June 2015. While it might not seem significant, even small basis-point movements can have a serious impact on earnings.
Part of the reason why occupancy had dipped is because Target Canada went bankrupt. However, according to RioCan, it is getting new tenants to replace Target Canada; these negotiations represent 114% of what Target Canada provided to RioCan in revenue.
All told, business is booming for the company. In the first quarter it had $148 million in operating funds from operation, which was up 10%, or 7% from the first quarter in 2015. This sort of growth should have investors happy because as operating funds increase, so too does the potential for this company to start kicking off lucrative dividends.
But before we talk about the dividend, it is important to recognize that RioCan officially sold its entire U.S. operations to the Blackstone Group with realized gains of $1.2 billion thanks to some hedging it did in December. This is a significant windfall for the company, and I expect the money will be used to continue its developments across the country.
One thing I am particularly bullish on is its mixed-unit operations. What I said above is true: RioCan is a retail company. However, RioCan has been adding office space and residential units on top of its retail locations. For example, its property on King Street and Portland Street in Toronto will have 20,000 square feet of mixed-used retail space, 200,000 square feet of office space, and 170,000 square feet of residential space. It has multiple units like this planned, which should continue to give the company growth.
All of this leads to the real reason why investors buy this stock: the dividend. The company currently pays $0.1175 per month to investors, which is a yield of 4.94%. I expect that this dividend will continue to grow as the company takes the $1.2 billion it earned and pays down debt and invests it into better properties. For those who want income and growth, RioCan is the place to be.
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Fool contributor Jacob Donnelly has no position in any stocks mentioned. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com.