American Realty Capital Properties, Inc. (ARCP) owns and acquires single tenant, freestanding commercial real estate that is net leased on a medium-term basis, primarily to investment grade credit rated and other creditworthy tenants. Since going public in 2011, this Real Estate Investment Trust has managed to increase its monthly dividends from 7.3 cents/share to 8.3 cents/share.
However the company has expanded very quickly, which is why I believe that it is difficult to do any quantitative analysis of its financials. This is because FFO/share has had a very different composition in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, due to the rapid growth in assets under this REIT umbrella. As a result, I am going to share mostly a qualitative opinion on the REIT. I purchased a position in this REIT in early 2013, after which I have not added to it. The only exception is that I have some shares in a Roth IRA, where dividends are set to reinvest automatically. I bought the stock because I viewed it as something that is similar to investing in Realty Income in the mid 1990s, before the company became an established REIT.
The rapid growth of acquisitions however makes me ask myself, "Are they doing this for the shareholders, or are they doing it for the executives?". It is good to see the scale of operations, which makes it easier to get high profile deals with major corporations. If you are Red Lobster, and you want to do lease-salebacks on 1,500 restaurant locations, you prefer to deal with one landlord that has the capacity to deal in the billions, rather than deal with hundreds of small landlords. The benefits of scale make it easier for that landlord to spread their costs over a larger pool of properties, which results in immediate gains to shareholders, if acquisitions are done properly. Acquisitions have been highly accretive to American Realty Capital Properties shareholders, which have resulted in increases in FFO/share and dividends per share.
American Realty Capital Properties currently yields approximately 7.90%. American Realty Capital Properties yields more than Realty Income (O) or National Retail Properties, Inc. (NNN) or W. P. Carey Inc. (WPC). These other REITs yield 4.90%, 5.50% and 4.30% respectively. This is because investors view it as a higher risk play than the other triple-net REITs. Investors probably see a higher chance of a dividend cut from American Realty Capital Properties than say Realty Income (O) or National Retail Properties, Inc. (NNN) or W. P. Carey Inc. (WPC). On a side note, each one of those other REITs has managed to boost dividends for over a decade, placing them in the ranks of the dividend achievers list I regularly screen for ideas. ARCP on the other hand has only increased dividends for four years in a row, and therefore does not have a long track record.
The investment in American Realty Capital Properties is mostly an investment in management. I believe that the management is highly competent, and is working for the benefit of shareholders. Management has an extensive track record in dealing with real estate, as well as integrating companies that have been acquired. However, there is always the risk that management develops an ego, which could be disastrous for shareholders. It is one thing to get from $100 million in assets to 15 billion in assets. It is quite another thing to actually manage a portfolio of assets successfully and generate value for shareholders that way.
However, if there are issues in integrating new companies acquired, this could result in losses for shareholders. If you have high degrees in leverage, and no room for error, a botched acquisition could turn out to be very costly.
The other risk is that management is trying to get to be the largest triple-net REIT because they have huge egos, and because a huge size of assets under management could result in larger compensation for executives. For example, if you manage a REIT with $100 million in assets, you can probably command a salary in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. However, if you are now managing a REIT with $10 billion in assets, your compensation could be in the tens of millions of dollars, and having a smaller percentage impact on the organization than the lower compensation at $100 million in assets.
The risk with empire building and executive ego is that management ends up purchasing lower quality assets, accepts lower rates of return and gets in bidding wars that could result in unprofitable locations for the REIT portfolio. If you are an executive, you get much more respect if you manage a $10 billion dollar REIT than the executive that manages a $100 million dollar REIT.
I am not very happy about the proposed management compensation plan from a few months ago, which entitled the CEO to quite a handsome compensation package, provided that the shares return at least 7%/year. Given the fact that current yield is at 8%, this meant that the goal of management was to extract money from the business for their own gain, rather than work for the benefit of shareholders.
When I bought the shares in 2013, I believed that the company can develop to be the next Realty Income. It has so far developed a big scale, has managed to do a lot of deals in the process, and is very undervalued relative to competitors Realty Income (O), W. P. Carey Inc. (WPC), National Retail Properties, Inc. (NNN). However, it is yet to be seen if assets were integrated successfully in order for synergies to be generated. I want to see some clean financials, which would make it easier to do a quantitative analysis that would allow me to compare performance between quarters and years. I am also curious to see where management takes the REIT, after achieving such big scale so rapidly. While I would keep holding on to my shares for as long as the dividend is maintained, I am not sure about adding fresh money there. Of course, if shareholder fears are overblown, this REIT could deliver excellent performance going forward, given the fact that shares have been so beaten down.
Full Disclosure: Long ARCP and O
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