Yesterday I watched a presentation by AEW UK REIT (AEWU) on the Investor Meet Company platform. This is a property investment trust which I hold but like many property companies the share price has done badly in recent weeks and it’s now on a discount to NAV of over 24%. The portfolio manager, Laura Elkin, explained that the company’s objective is to achieve a high income for investors through active management.
One of the main concerns of investors in such companies is that with interest rates rising, property investing may become less attractive as they typically have significant amounts of debt used to finance property purchases and may need to refinance their debt at more expensive levels. But AEWU have fixed their debt at 2.9% p.a. for the next 5 years and they have a high current cash holding. Their loan to NAV ratio is only 31%.
The current dividend yield is 8.7% although that is not covered by current earnings. This arises from some property disposals resulting in a high cash holding but they expect the dividend will soon be covered again.
There are apparently opportunities arising to buy properties at good prices and they are having conversations with open-ended property fund managers who are having to dispose of assets after falls in the property sector and pension funds having to realise cash.
Another question was whether their property leases were indexed linked. Generally not. Indexed linked leases often have a cap and collar which provides only limited protection and AEWU’s leases are generally fairly short term anyway so can often be relet at higher prices. But that does surely mean that if the economy grinds to a halt then vacancies might increase and pressure to reduce letting prices will rise.
One interesting comment was that the office market is being hit by the ESG agenda. Prices are being affected by the quality of the property in that regard and this is meaning some improvement of properties is required to make them more attractive before reletting.
This was a useful presentation and a recording is available. AEWU have a good long-term record but property trusts are currently out of favour. Taking a long-term view, commercial property is looking to me to be quite an attractive sector at current price levels and AEWU seems to be nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities.
There was news today of a proposed merger of JPMorgan Global Growth and Income (JGGI) trust with JPMorgan Elect (JPEI) trust. The latter is a rather peculiar investment trust with three classes of shares – Growth, Income and Cash. Holders of any of the latter can switch between the classes without incurring tax liabilities.
Total assets of Elect are relatively small at £341 million in comparison with JGGI’s £1446 million so it is certainly a rational move so far as Elect holders and the manager are concerned. Is there any benefit for JGGI holders? There is some minor advantage of a larger asset base reducing overall costs so I will probably vote in favour as a holder of JGGI.
Investing Basics: ShareSoc has launched a series of videos. See https://www.sharesoc.org/investor-academy/investing-basics/ . It’s a meritorious attempt to educate people on the basics of investment in an easy-to-use format and in a few short sessions. It may help some people although this may not be a good time to encourage people to take up stock market investment. The markets are volatile at present with poor returns in the short-term discouraging new investors.
But shares are beginning to look cheap particularly in the small cap sector and where can one get an income of 8.7% which is what AEWU is paying in dividends? No instant access bank or savings account is paying more than 2.5% while gilt yields are higher but still nowhere near 8.7%. There is a capital risk in investing in REITs but there is also in gilts. Corporate bonds may be another alternative to look at but information on those is quite limited.
Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )
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