Like most investors, I'm a big fan of gold rushes in new or rapidly expanding industries because that's where there's the most money to be made. When it comes to picking the right stock to benefit from an ongoing gold rush, however, I very much prefer companies that are selling the shovels rather than doing the actual mining. After all, it wouldn't be notable to "strike gold" if it was a guaranteed outcome, and in innovative new industries, the risk of failure can be quite high.
In that vein (no pun intended), the two stocks I'll discuss today are extraordinary shovel-sellers because their product is specialized real estate. Both are real estate investment trusts (REITs), and that means they're dividend-oriented in terms of their shareholder returns. But because they serve dynamic growth industries, they're anything but sleepy landlords.
1. Alexandria Real Estate
As the biotech industry's premier provider of leasable laboratory space in key innovation hubs like Boston, Alexandria Real Estate's (NYSE:ARE) properties are perennially in high demand. Reputable biotechs and pharmaceutical businesses are Alexandria's mainstay. Fifty-five percent of the company's annual rental revenue is from large-cap or investment-grade tenants, and the average tenant has 7.6 years left on their lease. As though that weren't enough, the REIT also boasts an occupancy rate of 94.5%. In other words, its rental revenue is highly reliable and also secure for years to come.
While some commercial realty stocks got pummeled by the pandemic, Alexandria didn't even flinch because its customers were still hard at work. In fact, a grand total of three of its tenants -- Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson -- each produced a coronavirus vaccine. If Novavax gets its candidate approved soon, the total will be four.
Of course, Alexandria doesn't directly benefit from its tenants' approvals for new medicines. Nor does it suffer from their failed projects or worse-than-expected sales figures. Instead, it sits back and collects rent each month. And for 95% of its lease contracts, rent is mandated to grow at a rate of around 3% per year. In sum, it's a much safer stock than the average biotech company, even if its steady growth of rental revenue is smaller than what you'd get with a newly minted blockbuster drug.
2. Innovative Industrial Properties
Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR) is the real estate tycoon of the medicinal cannabis industry in the U.S. Rather than renting out space to young marijuana cultivators directly, it performs sale-leaseback transactions. In these sale-leasebacks, companies sell their cultivation properties to IIPR, which then leases the same property back to the original owner. This is mutually beneficial because it helps smaller operators raise cash, whereas the new owner gains a rental income stream without the need to find a new tenant. And because of how reliable rental income is, IIPR won't have any trouble taking out debt at attractive rates to pay for its acquisitions.
IIPR's customers include cannabis industry rising stars like Cresco Labs and Green Thumb Industries, and it has 69 properties spread across all the major medicinal marijuana markets, like Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Its facilities are 100% leased out, and the weighted average lease length is a whopping 16.7 years. That means the company's top line is extremely resistant to the failure of any single customer to live up to their lease obligations. Even if one tenant goes under, IIPR still owns the property, and its other tenants are likely to stick around for a long, long time.
Don't mistake the stock's relative safety for being a slow-grower. Its quarterly revenue exploded by 103% year over year in the first three months of 2021. With growth like that, it's no surprise why management saw fit to raise the dividend payout by 32% compared to the same quarter in 2020. Investors probably shouldn't bet on such a steep gain in every future quarter, but this company is doubtless on an ascent.