Several reasons have led us to believe that Lexington Realty Trust, a net lease REIT mostly in Office/Industrial, has become a good, reliable purchase for dividend lovers. First, it is part of the group of most consistent dividend-paying REIT stocks (not many REITs have distributed dividends for 22 years in a row). Second, it has a dividend yield above the equity REIT average of 8.1%. Finally, it looks undervalued if compared to its closest peers, including office, industrial and net lease REITs.
From its first dividend in January 1994, Lexington never interrupted the distribution of quarterly dividends. Such consistency can be one of the most obvious signs that management has been committed to its shareholders. Since it went public in 1993, the company is the result of several mergers. Regardless, 22 years of consecutive dividends is a very good track record, even though they slashed dividends in 2008 to accelerate the deleveraging of the company and paid dividends mostly in shares in 2009.
A potential risk to its dividend record is an ambitious plan to make over its portfolio. With between $600 – $700 million of dispositions planned for 2016, including a sale of New York City land, the FFO per share in 2016 will reduce to $1.05, as opposed to $1.10 in 2015. However, if everything works as planned, we doubt the company will have any issues in maintaining the current level of dividends. Its current payout ratio is conservative, just around 60%.
The good thing about this plan is that management will mitigate another potential threat to dividends by reducing the leverage level. In Q4, they posted a higher than average debt level of 57% of the capital structure. Although some would argue that an environment of low interest rates is a good time to maximize debt levels, still you don’t want to threaten the company’s liquidity level. Since the dispositions’ proceeds will serve various purposes — to pay down debt, acquire properties that fit their objectives, and repurchase stocks — we believe that the new debt level will not go down beyond 50%.
Lexington management has been skillful in maintaining a resilient portfolio. The company has been moving away from Office and has increased its exposure to Industrial properties. Also, a significant part of the revenues is now sourced from long-term leases, a likely consequence of investing in build-to-suit and sale-leaseback, single-tenant properties. In the end, they enjoy a portfolio that is diversified and well balanced in terms of expirations.
The company valuation metrics indicate they are undervalued. In terms of dividend yield, the company tops any industrial REITs with its 8.1%. Compared with Office REITs, the company would have the third highest yield, after Government Properties and Select Income. Its AFFO multiple is lower than most peers.
It is natural that a non-pure play REIT such as Lexington usually looks undervalued because it is harder to compare. The dual nature of the company, especially during a transitional period, makes some investors step back; but during periods like this is when savvy investors make good purchases.
In summary, I’d buy Lexington for its dividend consistency and few threats to this record. The portfolio transition is long term and represents a potential upside to the stock.
Source: Lexington Realty Trust(NYSE:LXP)
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Disclosure: The author has no positions in any shares mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.