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Washington Prime Group Inc. is a US$852m small-cap, real estate investment trust (REIT) based in Columbus, United States. REITs own and operate income-generating property and adhere to a different set of regulations. This impacts how WPG’s business operates and also how we should analyse its stock. In this commentary, I'll take you through some of the things I look at when assessing WPG.
REIT investors should be familiar with the term Fund from Operations (FFO) – a REIT’s main source of cash flow from its day-to-day business activities. FFO is a higher quality measure of earnings because it takes out the impact of non-recurring sales and non-cash items such as depreciation. These items can distort the bottom line and not necessarily reflective of WPG’s daily operations. For WPG, its FFO of US$287m makes up 59% of its gross profit, which means the majority of its earnings are high-quality and recurring.
Robust financial health can be measured using a common metric in the REIT investing world, FFO-to-debt. The calculation roughly estimates how long it will take for WPG to repay debt on its balance sheet, which gives us insight into how much risk is associated with having that level of debt on its books. With a ratio of 9.8%, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor would consider this as aggressive risk. This would take WPG 10 years to pay off using just operating income, which is a long time, and risk increases with time. But realistically, companies have many levers to pull in order to pay back their debt, beyond operating income alone.
Next, interest coverage ratio shows how many times WPG’s earnings can cover its annual interest payments. Usually the ratio is calculated using EBIT, but for REITs, it’s better to use FFO divided by net interest. This is similar to the above concept, but looks at the nearer-term obligations. With an interest coverage ratio of 2.02x, WPG is not generating an appropriate amount of cash from its borrowings. Typically, a ratio of greater than 3x is seen as safe.
In terms of valuing WPG, FFO can also be used as a form of relative valuation. Instead of the P/E ratio, P/FFO is used instead, which is very common for REIT stocks. In WPG’s case its P/FFO is 2.97x, compared to the long-term industry average of 16.5x, meaning that it is highly undervalued
As a REIT, Washington Prime Group offers some unique characteristics which could help diversify your portfolio. However, before you decide on whether or not to invest in WPG, I highly recommend taking a look at other aspects of the stock to consider:
Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for WPG’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for WPG’s outlook.
Valuation: What is WPG worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether WPG is currently mispriced by the market.
Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.