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These Little-Known REITs are Delivering Big Returns

While I was recently searching for some small-cap stocks with strong performance, I was surprised to see a handful of small-cap REITs show up on the list.

REITs (real estate investment trusts) own and/or operate real estate and can offer investors exposure to the sector, while usually paying a handsome dividend. Investors typically buy REITs for the yield not for capital appreciation.

I dug in a little deeper into three of the small-cap REITs that jumped out to me because of their growth rates and found some interesting ideas for investors looking for specialized areas of exposure within the real estate market .

Here’s a quick review of each small-cap REIT.

REIT #1: Hannon Armstrong (HASI)
If you’re concerned about climate change and want a somewhat diversified way to invest in companies that are trying to improve energy efficiency, Hannon Armstrong should be up your alley. The company provides capital to companies in the energy efficiency, renewable energy and other sustainable infrastructure markets. In exchange for capital to advance their businesses Hannon generates recurring revenue and predictable cash flows.

As of the end of June 2021 roughly half of Hannon’s portfolio was allocated to behind-the-meter investments (energy efficiency, storage, distributed generation) while the other half was allocated to grid-connected investments (wind, solar, storage). A very small slice was allocated to sustainable infrastructure (stormwater remediation, environmental restoration, transmission & distribution).

The biggest portfolio allocations in terms of specific projects are 28% to onshore wind, 25% to residential solar and 14% to land solar. The portfolio yields 7.7%.

Growth has been phenomenal, despite a hiccup in 2019 (revenue growth of just 2%). In 2020 revenue was up 32% to $186.9 million while distributable EPS rose 13% to $1.58. In the just-reported second quarter of 2021 revenue was up 21% to $58.9 million and distributable EPS grew 43% to $0.57.

Big picture, Hannon continues to grow its portfolio while taking advantage of low rates to reduce its cost of capital. There are some project delays due to supply chain issues, but so far nothing too serious.

Looking forward analysts see Hannon growing distributable EPS by 7% to 10% a year for the next two years while growing its dividend at about half that pace as management will opt to self-fund some projects. With a current yield of 2.4% (annual dividend of $1.40) this isn’t the biggest yield you can find out there. But if you’re looking for growth and income with an ESG angle you’re in the right spot.

Shares of HASI peaked at 72.42 in early January then slid for several months, finally bottoming out near 45 in May. Since then, the stock has been climbing slowly but steadily. Trading near 56 today, HASI is currently above its 50-day line.

REIT #2: Safehold (SAFE)
Safehold is the only public company I’m aware of that specializes in ground leases, which represent ownership of the land underlying commercial real estate projects. The land is leased to the owners/operators of the real estate built on the property under long-term leases of 30 to 99 years (with renewal options). The pitch for real estate developers is that by working with Safehold they can run a more efficient operation and unlock the value of the land beneath their buildings.

The company appears to be succeeding and has properties all over the U.S. Properties in its portfolio in New York City include 425 Park Avenue, 135 West 50th Street, and 195 Broadway, as well as the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, HI. The portfolio is well-diversified, with 54% office and industrial buildings, 17% hotels and 28% multifamily.

Since going public in June 2017 Safehold has grown its portfolio by 11 times, to an estimated $3.6 billion as of the end of Q2 2021. The portfolio has expanded by $1 billion over just the last twelve months. To fund the business Safehold has $2.2 billion in total debt.

Growth has been impressive. In 2020 revenue was up 66%, and is seen up 22% in 2021, to $190 million. Adjusted EPS is also seen surging this year, to $1.37 (up 17%). Shares of Safehold are performing very well so far this year, having broken out to new highs above 85 in July and held above those levvels since. With such a strong share price the yield is relatively low, just 0.72% ($0.68 annual dividend). However, over the years investors have done extremely well from capital gains as SAFE has posted enviable performance.

Safehold has a market cap of $4.9 billion and is based in New York City.

REIT #3: Global Medical (GMRE)
Global Medical is a REIT that’s focused on acquiring state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and leasing them to leading clinical operators with dominant market share. The pitch is that this is a way for healthcare providers to monetize their facilities and for Global Medical to offer investors exposure to a reliable segment of real estate that can deliver consistent income.

Since going public in 2016 the company has grown its portfolio asset base from $93 million to $1.1 billion, an average annual growth rate of 74%. As of the end of June 2020 the company owned 145 buildings with a total of 3.7 million square feet and had 117 tenants. Major tenants include Encompass, Memorial Health, Kindred Health and OCOM. Properties are spread across most of the U.S., with the exception of states in the far Northwest and far Northeast.

Growth is impressive. Revenue was up 33% in 2020 and is expected to rise another 28%, to $120 million, in 2021. Adjusted EPS is expected to rise $0.10 to $0.98. Shares of GMRE yield 5.5%.

As of the end of June the company had $572 million in total debt, and currently sports a market cap of $908 million. It is based in Bethesda, MD.

Assuming you’re aware of the tax implications of REITs, I’d say all three of these are attractive long-term investments. As in most scenarios when attractive stocks have been running higher, it’s wise to average in to spread out your cost basis.

Do you own any REITs in your portfolio? Tell us what’s worked and what hasn’t in the comments below.