Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc. is a US$13b large-cap, real estate investment trust (REIT) based in Chicago, United States. REIT shares give you ownership of the company than owns and manages various income-producing property, whether it be commercial, industrial or residential. The structure of ELS is unique and it has to adhere to different requirements compared to other non-REIT stocks. I’ll take you through some of the key metrics you should use in order to properly assess ELS.
A common financial term REIT investors should know is Funds from Operations, or FFO for short, which is a REIT's main source of income from its portfolio of property, such as rent. FFO is a cleaner and more representative figure of how much ELS actually makes from its day-to-day operations, compared to net income, which can be affected by one-off activities or non-cash items such as depreciation. For ELS, its FFO of US$411m makes up 79% of its gross profit, which means the majority of its earnings are high-quality and recurring.
In order to understand whether ELS has a healthy balance sheet, we have to look at a metric called FFO-to-total debt. This tells us how long it will take ELS to pay off its debt using its income from its main business activities, and gives us an insight into ELS’s ability to service its borrowings. With a ratio of 18%, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor would consider this as significantly high risk. This would take ELS 5.71 years to pay off using operating income alone. Given that long-term debt is a multi-year commitment this is not unusual, however, the longer it takes for a company to pay back debt, the higher the risk associated with that company.
I also look at ELS's interest coverage ratio, which demonstrates how many times its earnings can cover its yearly interest expense. This is similar to the concept above, but looks at the upcoming obligations. The ratio is typically calculated using EBIT, but for a REIT stock, it's better to use FFO divided by net interest. With an interest coverage ratio of 3.92x, it’s safe to say ELS is generating an appropriate amount of cash from its borrowings.
I also use FFO to look at ELS's valuation relative to other REITs in United States by using the price-to-FFO metric. This is conceptually the same as the price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, but as previously mentioned, FFO is more suitable. ELS's price-to-FFO is 31.55x, compared to the long-term industry average of 16.5x, meaning that it is overvalued.
In this article, I've taken a look at Funds from Operations using various metrics, but it is certainly not sufficient to derive an investment decision based on this value alone. Equity LifeStyle Properties can bring about diversification for your portfolio, but before you decide to invest, take a look at the other aspects you must consider before investing:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for ELS’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for ELS’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is ELS 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 ELS 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.
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