Everywhere around us, the cost of investments looks incredibly high. The S&P 500 is trading at all-time high valuations, a 10-year treasury note only pays about 2.4%, and the price of bitcoin is moving so fast that there is no point in trying to give a published number. For a lot of people, these things might smell like a bubble, which has a tendency to cause investors to flock to contrarian investments like gold.
To paraphrase Warren Buffett on gold, it's right to be fearful at times, but going to gold as a safe haven isn't the best answer. So in the spirit of this idea, we asked three of our investing contributors to highlight stocks they see as better investments than gold. Here's why they picked Gramercy Property Trust (NYSE:GPT), Royal Gold (NASDAQ:RGLD), and Franco Nevada (NYSE:FNV).
Your assets "gotta get up and beeeee somebody"
Tyler Crowe (Gramercy Property Trust): I can sympathize to a certain degree with those that want to invest in hard assets like gold because they are a protection from declines in stock or bond prices -- or if, even worse, the value of the dollar declines from inflation.
Here's the thing, though: Gold is lazy. It just sits there and does nothing productive, like your stoner college buddy who lounged on the couch all the time. It doesn't generate income or miraculously create more gold over time. It's just a bet that in the future, society will value that ounce of metal more than it does today. Investing in hard assets is a good idea. Instead of looking at hunks of metal, though, why not invest in a hard asset that produces something like real estate. More specifically, why not take a look at Gramercy Property Trust.
Gramercy is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns and leases 81 million square feet of commercial and industrial properties just outside metropolitan areas. The company's net-lease structure means that the tenant pays all of the expenses associated with the property, including rent. With more than 350 individual properties and no one tenant accounting for more than 5% of revenue and long-term leases (less than 25% of leases mature before 2020), the trust has a stable cash flow with which it can pay out a rather generous dividend that yields 5.4% today. Equally important is that Gramercy has an investment-grade rating and has access to capital that will allow it to keep growing, such as its recent joint venture to own and operate several e-commerce distribution centers across the U.S.
If you want to invest in hard assets, then you should look hard at real estate investments like Gramercy Property Trust instead of flocking to lazy gold. The long-term benefits of a productive asset will reap much larger rewards.
Have your golden cake and eat it, too
Sean O'Reilly (Royal Gold): Owning gold can be a tricky thing. Worse, holding a gold mining stock brings risks -- environmental and labor-based liabilities. Fortunately, some alternatives allow investors to have their cake and eat it, too: streaming companies. And the top gold streamer, Royal Gold, has a great deal to offer investors looking for exposure to the yellow metal without the drawbacks.
Royal Gold manages a portfolio -- not of gold mines, but streaming interests (basically a contract) in physical mines. Let's say you're a copper miner. The earth doesn't just segment minerals and elements for the convenience of humans. Inevitably, one comes across a few ounces of gold when prospecting for copper or anything else. The fixed costs of operating any mine are enormous. So the mining industry came up with a solution: streaming. Companies like Royal Gold put up money to help mining companies develop mines. In exchange, they get a cut of the gold (or any other metal agreed upon) at a steep discount to the current price.
How steep? Take Royal Gold's interest in the Mount Milligan copper and gold mine of Canada. Royal wrote a check for $782 million for its streaming interests in the mine. In exchange, it has the right to acquire 35% of the gold and 18.75% of the copper produced by the mine over the entire life of the mine. The best part? Royal Gold pays the owner just $435 per ounce for its share of the gold and 15% of the current spot price of copper. One can see why steaming can be an excellent business.
Royal Gold is expecting big dividends in future years from its recent investments. The Mount Milligan mine is quickly upping production. During Royal's fiscal Q3, the company received its first round of copper deliveries.
Royal's partner in the Pueblo Viejo mine, Barrick Gold, recently noted that that mine's life might be longer than thought, thanks to advanced mining techniques.
Royal Gold pays a modest dividend, yielding around 1.2% at the time of this writing. The dividend will likely grow as Royal's streaming investments continue to pay off. Plus, any yield is better than physical gold's absent payout.
More than a little different
Reuben Gregg Brewer (Franco Nevada Corp): Like Royal Gold, Franco Nevada is a streaming company. But I think its focus on diversification has more to offer investors than either of its major peers, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals (NYSE:WPM).
For example, Wheaton has investments in 20 operating mines and eight development projects. The tally at Royal Gold amps that up to 195 properties: 40 producing mines, 21 development projects, and the rest in some stage of evaluation and exploration. But Franco Nevada goes even further, with 340 investments, 47 producing mines, around 40 mines in some stage of development, over 170 mines in the evaluation stage, and 80 oil and gas investments.
Franco Nevada's oil and gas exposure is unique relative to its peers, as it chose to opportunistically extend its business model to this out-of-favor resource sector after oil hit the skids in mid-2014. So not only do you get more mines, which reduces the risk of any one investment going bad, but you also get exposure to an entirely different commodity. Oil makes up around 7% of revenue today, but that should grow materially over the next year or so as Franco Nevada's energy investments start to bear fruit. That will add to both growth and diversity at the streaming company.
Tying all of this together is a dividend that's been increased every year since Franco Nevada went public in 2007. Like Royal Gold, the yield is modest at just 1.2%, but with more diversification and a dividend history that is on par with Royal Gold (which has 17 consecutive years of annual increases), my top choice in the streaming space is Franco Nevada.