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Realty Income Earnings Show Why It’s the Right Kind of Retail Stock

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Aug 3, 2018 at 7:39AM

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Many retailers are feeling the pressure from e-commerce, but Realty Income does a great job of avoiding these headwinds.

Leading net-lease retail REIT Realty Income (O -1.13%) recently reported its second-quarter earnings, and as usual, there weren't any major surprises. Earnings growth, occupancy, and most other key metrics were predictably strong -- a breath of fresh air, given the turbulence in some parts of the retail industry.

With that in mind, here are some of the important takeaways from Realty Income's second quarter that show why it's one of the best retail stocks for an uncertain retail environment.

Pharmacist giving medications to a senior male customer.

Non-discretionary tenants like drug stores have helped Realty Income grow despite e-commerce headwinds in the sector. Image source: Getty Images.

Solid growth in a challenging retail environment

It's no secret that the brick-and-mortar retail environment, as a whole, is rather challenging right now. There have been dozens of retail bankruptcies in recent years, and many once-great retail brands like Sears and JCPenney are struggling to survive.

However, not all retailers are in the same boat. The businesses that occupy the properties in Realty Income's portfolio aren't too vulnerable to e-commerce headwinds, nor are they particularly prone to recessions. Think of non-discretionary businesses such as drug stores, discount-oriented retail like dollar stores, and experiential retail like movie theaters.

As a result, by looking at Realty Income's numbers, you'd never know brick-and-mortar retail is struggling. Adjusted FFO -- the REIT version of earnings -- increased by more than 5% per share over the past year, and revenue is up by nearly 10%.

Occupancy has gotten better, not worse

In addition to the solid growth, Realty Income's occupancy rate shows that it isn't losing tenants to the "retail apocalypse" that many investors are panicked about. Occupancy has actually increased slightly. In fact, 98.7% of Realty Income's properties are now occupied, up from 98.6% at the end of the first quarter and 98.5% a year ago.

Turnover has been minimal, as well. Fifty-seven leases expired during the second quarter, and Realty Income released more than 80% of them. Of the 47 properties Realty Income released during the second quarter, 46 of them were to the same tenants who had been occupying them.

Realty Income is buying more properties than expected

Another encouraging sign is that Realty Income seems to be finding plenty of attractive growth opportunities. The company spent $347 million on acquisitions during the quarter and is dramatically increasing its full-year acquisition guidance to $1.75 billion from a range of $1.0 billion-$1.5 billion previously. Many other REITs are taking a breather on expansion, so this is certainly a positive indicator for the net-lease retail real estate industry.

As a result of the stronger-than-anticipated performance during the second quarter, as well as the attractive acquisition environment, Realty Income has increased its full-year AFFO guidance by $0.015 at the midpoint.

As usual, Realty Income does predictably well

I follow Realty Income's stock, and coming from my perspective, the company's earnings reports are generally quite boring and predictable -- and in the best possible way. No matter what is going on in the economy, retail industry, or the rest of the stock market, Realty Income typically delivers solid and steady growth quarter after quarter and has a knack for doing just a little bit better than the market is expecting every time.

Because of its predictably growing income, Realty Income has been able to increase its monthly dividend 97 times since its 1994 NYSE listing. And because of its highly effective growth strategy, the company has delivered 15.8% annualized returns throughout its listed history. This means that a $10,000 investment made at the time of the NYSE listing would have ballooned to more than $338,000 today. While Realty Income's results may be boring and uneventful over short time periods, over the long term, steady growth can be quite exciting.

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