Shares of real estate investment trust (REIT) American Tower Corporation (NYSE:AMT) advanced 15% through the first six months of 2020, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. That's pretty impressive compared to the average REIT, as measured by Vanguard Real Estate ETF, which was down roughly 15%. That said, the period was really broken into two parts. When the market fell into bear territory in the first quarter, American Tower lost about 20% of its value. Following that drop, however, the REIT's shares recovered all of their losses and then some, while many other REITs continued to languish.
American Tower is not your typical REIT. It doesn't own office buildings, apartments, or stores, all of which are facing notable issues related to the spread of COVID-19. American Tower, as its name implies, owns cellular towers. That's a very different business and one that hasn't seen much of an impact from the coronavirus. If anything, being able to stay in touch via a cellular connection has become even more important. Meanwhile, there's an industry switch taking place that is benefiting the company's business as cell providers upgrade to 5G.
In fact, when the company reported first-quarter earnings, it basically said it doesn't think COVID-19 will be an issue. To highlight just how well positioned the REIT is, it increased its dividend a huge 20% in the first quarter -- even though many REITs are cutting dividends right now. Although there's no telling what will happen in the future, American Tower does look as if it is a rare landlord that will be relatively immune to the impact of the coronavirus.
Based on the stock's performance in the first half of 2020, investors are well aware that American Tower is weathering the COVID-19 pandemic better than other REITs. And while there's no reason to expect that trend to change, the shares are not cheap today -- the REIT's yield, at roughly 1.6%, is even lower than the yield available from the S&P 500 Index. Investors focused on dividend growth might want to consider the shares, but anyone interested in value will probably be better off looking elsewhere.