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Investing In Property Through Washington Prime Group Inc (NYSE:WPG)

David Rizzo

Washington Prime Group Inc is a US$1.63b small-cap, real estate investment trust (REIT) based in Columbus, 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 WPG 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 WPG.

View our latest analysis for Washington Prime Group

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 WPG 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 WPG, its FFO of US$327.5m makes up 63.0% of its gross profit, which means the majority of its earnings are high-quality and recurring.

NYSE:WPG Historical Debt September 25th 18

In order to understand whether WPG 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 WPG to pay off its debt using its income from its main business activities, and gives us an insight into WPG’s ability to service its borrowings. With a ratio of 11.3%, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor would consider this as aggressive risk. This would take WPG 8.85 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.

I also look at WPG’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 2.59x, WPG is not generating an appropriate amount of cash from its borrowings. Typically, a ratio of greater than 3x is seen as safe.

I also use FFO to look at WPG’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. In WPG’s case its P/FFO is 4.85x, compared to the long-term industry average of 16.5x, meaning that it is highly undervalued

Next Steps:

Washington Prime Group can bring diversification into your portfolio due to its unique REIT characteristics. Before you make a decision on the stock today, keep in mind I’ve only covered one metric in this article, the FFO, which is by no means comprehensive. I’d strongly recommend continuing your research on the following areas I believe are key fundamentals for WPG:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.