U.S. Markets closed

You May Have Been Looking At Saul Centers, Inc. (NYSE:BFS) All Wrong

Simply Wall St

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Saul Centers, Inc. is a US$1.7b small-cap, real estate investment trust (REIT) based in Bethesda, United States. REITs own and operate income-generating property and adhere to a different set of regulations. This impacts how BFS’s business operates and also how we should analyse its stock. I’ll take you through some of the key metrics you should use in order to properly assess BFS.

View our latest analysis for Saul Centers

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 BFS’s daily operations. For BFS, its FFO of US$110m makes up 64% of its gross profit, which means the majority of its earnings are high-quality and recurring.

NYSE:BFS Historical Debt, May 6th 2019

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 BFS 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 11%, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor would consider this as aggressive risk. This would take BFS 9.26 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 BFS’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 2.45x, BFS 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 BFS, 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. BFS's price-to-FFO is 15.46x, compared to the long-term industry average of 16.5x, meaning that it is fairly valued.

Next Steps:

Saul Centers 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 BFS:

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

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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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.