Realty Income (NYSE:O) released fourth-quarter and full-year earnings for 2014 on Tuesday evening and recorded adjusted funds from operation, AFFO, of $0.65 per share.
Because AFFO excludes depreciation of real estate, as well as one time charges, it is a better indicator of cash flow and performance for real estate investment trusts, REITs, than the more traditional net income. Although Realty Income's earnings missed consensus estimates by $0.01 per share, it represents a 4.8% increase from the fourth quarter of 2013.
For the full-year, the company reported AFFO of $2.57, which is a 6.6% improvement over 2013. Realty Income's CEO John Case suggested that he was "[P]leased to report excellent operating performance for the fourth quarter and for 2014... This earnings growth allowed us to increase dividends paid per share by 2.1% in 2014, and another 3% this month."
CEO Case went on to say that the company was recently added to the "exclusive S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats® index for increasing our dividend every year for 20 years."
During the year, Realty Income made $1.4 billion in acquisitions which makes 2014 the "second most acquisitive year in the company's history." The company's portfolio of predominately retail properties stands at 4,327, today, or 431 more than at the end of 2013.
The company suggested that they will continue to remain selective with acquisitions, but considering the "healthy volume of acquisition opportunities we are currently seeing, we are raising our acquisitions guidance for 2015 from $500 million-$800 million to $700 million-$1 billion."
Most importantly, Realty Income has $1.12 billion worth of available credit they can borrow at any time. This, along with the use of cash and equity, gives the company plenty of ammunition to make their acquisition guidance a reality.
2014 was also one of the most active years for lease-rollover, and Realty Income was able to "re-lease 203 properties with expiring leases to existing tenants or new tenants, recapturing 99.3% of expiring rent."
This allowed the company to improve its total portfolio occupancy rate to 98.4%, a 0.2% increase from last year. This remains among the highest occupancy rate in the industry, the highest for Realty Income since 2007, and a major reason the company can create such consistent and predictable cash flows.
Realty Income suggested that AFFO should range from $2.66 to $2.71 for the full-year 2015. This would represent an improvement of 3.5% to 5.4%. If estimates are correct, and due to Realty Income's stable and predictable business model they tend to be, it would mark another fantastic year for the company.
Ultimately, I believe Realty Income will have more than its fair share of opportunities to grow in 2015, and its nearly unmatched track record of strong performance makes it, in my opinion, the gold standard among REITs. For anyone looking to collect a steady and growing monthly dividend, I think Realty Income is a great investment today.
Dave Koppenheffer has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.