The equity portfolio of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -0.64%) (BRK.B -0.45%) has a grand total of one real estate investment trust (REIT) -- Store Capital (STOR). That alone says something about the company.
For years, Buffett crafted a brilliant and successful career as Berkshire's guiding light while ignoring REITs. Why, then, is he making an exception with Store Capital? Perhaps that's because the company has been quite the outperformer and is still on a growth path.
A bountiful Buffett buy
Store Capital had a fine Q4, which put a cap on an excellent fiscal 2018 for the company. The quarter saw the REIT collect revenue of nearly $147 million, quite an improvement over the $120 million in Q4 2017. Net income also saw quite a rise, advancing to more than $56 million ($0.26 per share) from the year-ago result of $41 million.
Those two line items beat the average analyst estimates, while full-year results also showed substantial increases -- per-share adjusted funds from operations (AFFO, a crucial profitability metric for REITs) rose by almost 8% to nearly $378 million. That was an all-time annual record for the company.
Store Capital is a growth machine. Across the last six fiscal years, its top line has more than doubled, with AFFO tripling -- and then some.
At first glance, this success might seem puzzling and counterintuitive. After all, Store Capital is a retail REIT, and we're in the midst of a retail apocalypse. This term overstates the case, but brick-and-mortar retailers are still having a tough time of it in this age of e-commerce.
The company has two key methods to thrive in this challenging period. One is by signing leases with retailers that are resistant to the migration toward e-commerce. Such businesses either encourage in-person visits from consumers or mandate it outright. You can't utilize the services of a health club or movie theater, for example, without being physically present. Store Capital has tenants in both these categories.
Another is by inking long-term net leases with its clients. A net lease is one in which the tenant is obligated to pay maintenance, property taxes, and insurance -- three potentially costly items for a landlord. Store Capital eliminates these expenses and does so for a period of many years (the typical net lease is valid for 15 years or more).
This approach is clearly working. Store Capital's overall occupancy at its properties was a near-perfect 99.6% at the 2,255 locations it held at the end of 2018.
Check out the latest Store Capital earnings call transcript.
Those numbers are highly encouraging, but what about the future for Store Capital?
We might be in for a period of cooler growth. Per-share AFFO is expected to rise, but not at the booming double-digit rates of years past -- the company is projecting a rise of 3% to 7% for the full year over 2018's level.
I don't think this will turn investors away from the stock, Buffett and Berkshire included. Like any good REIT, Store Capital is a sweet stock for income investors. It's been paying a rich dividend since its IPO in 2014 and has raised it nicely every year since then. At the moment, the payout yields just over 4%.
Recent missteps aside -- hello, Kraft Heinz! -- Buffett is justifiably renowned as one of the greatest stock pickers in history. He's picked Store Capital above the many other available REITs on the market; it's certainly worthy of consideration for your portfolio, too.