Shopping center REIT Urstadt Biddle Properties' (NYSE:UBA) (NYSE:UBP) cover of its 2004 annual report reads, "Stock prices are only opinions, but dividends are always facts."

There's something to be said for that statement, and as you might expect, Urstadt Biddle backs it up by declaring that it has paid 35 years of uninterrupted dividends. That's a great track record, but as with any investment, what matters is what's to come in the future. And with the company reporting its results for fiscal 2005 yesterday, we have a good opportunity to take a look at where the business stands.

With a current yield of 5.4% and a forward yield of 5.6%, based on the company's announced 2.3% increase in its dividends for next year, Urstadt Biddle's yield is in line with many of its shopping REIT brethren. But more importantly, its payout ratio based on forward dividend payments and current funds from operations (FFO) is a healthy 76%. Assuming the company turns in approximately $1.25 in FFO next year, the payout ratio would be slightly healthier.

Focused primarily in suburban areas north of New York City in New York and Connecticut, Urstadt Biddle has been able to keep a remarkably high percentage of its core shopping properties fully leased. In the past five years, the lowest its occupancy has dipped to is 96%, and 2005's performance was right in line at 98%. This is largely a function of its tenants. Many of its tenants are grocery stores, banks, and retailers of everyday household items such as Petco (NASDAQ:PETC), Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), and Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY).

For an investor, the only downside to such a very high level of occupancy is that it leaves little room for gains by increasing occupancy. Instead, Urstadt Biddle will need to focus on acquiring other properties and increasing the cash flow of its existing properties through rent increases. The good news is that the company has been historically effective at both. In the past year, the company acquired two new properties and increased the rental revenues on its existing properties by 3%.

All things considered, there may be other shopping center REITs out there that currently offer a more compelling yield or overall value, but Urstadt Biddle is certainly worth consideration because of its track record alone. And for those just starting out following REITs, the company's annual report is very well written and easy to follow.

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Nathan Parmelee has no financial stake in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.