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Is iStar Inc. (NYSE:STAR) A Healthy REIT?

Cameron Brookes

iStar Inc. is a US$634m small-cap, real estate investment trust (REIT) based in New York, United States. REITs are basically a portfolio of income-producing real estate investments, which are owned and operated by management of that trust company. They have to meet certain requirements in order to become a REIT, meaning they should be analyzed a different way. Below, I’ll look at a few important metrics to keep in mind as part of your research on STAR.

View our latest analysis for iStar

Funds from Operations (FFO) is a higher quality measure of STAR’s earnings compared to net income. This term is very common in the REIT investing world as it provides a cleaner look at its cash flow from daily operations by excluding impact of one-off activities or non-cash items such as depreciation. For STAR, its FFO of US$204m makes up 83% of its gross profit, which means the majority of its earnings are high-quality and recurring.

NYSE:STAR Historical Debt January 24th 19

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 STAR 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 5.7%, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor would consider this as aggressive risk. This would take STAR 17.61 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 STAR’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 1.05x, STAR 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 STAR, 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 STAR’s case its P/FFO is 3.1x, compared to the long-term industry average of 16.5x, meaning that it is highly undervalued

Next Steps:

As a REIT, iStar offers some unique characteristics which could help diversify your portfolio. However, before you decide on whether or not to invest in STAR, I highly recommend taking a look at other aspects of the stock to consider:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for STAR’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for STAR’s outlook.
  2. Valuation: What is STAR 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 STAR 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.