Real estate investments are hot these days, and many growth investors have been diversifying into income-producing REITs to ride out the sector rotation. Collecting some dividend income is a secondary benefit.
It doesn't all have to be residential real estate and office buildings. Some REIT operators have an emphasis that growth investors can easily come to appreciate. Digital Realty Trust (NYSE:DLR), American Tower (NYSE:AMT), and Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR) are three REITs that may be on the low end in terms of yields, but they are riding hot trends that should translate into larger payouts over time.
Digital Realty Trust
When most people think of cloud computing they instinctively look up to the sky, but in reality all of your stored files, streaming playlists, and information live in data centers scattered across the world. Digital Realty Trust is the leading REIT specializing in data center properties.
This is a pretty big business with a global footprint. It begins 2021 with more than 290 facilities across 24 countries on six different continents. Digital Realty Trust is the fifth-largest U.S.-listed REIT, and it's a component of the S&P 500.
The 3.1% yield may not seem like much, but Digital Realty Trust has come through with 16 consecutive years of hikes since going public. Just about any emerging tech trend that you can think of -- 5G, self-driving vehicles, streaming entertainment, virtual reality, and augmented reality -- will require even more data. All roads lead to Digital Realty Trust's farm.
Digital Realty Trust continues to acquire properties, and can you blame it? Many office, retail, and housing REITS had to struggle with unexpected vacancies and deadbeat tenants during the pandemic, but you know that companies are going to be paying their data centers to stay in business.
We live in a mobile world, and American Tower is keeping folks connected with antenna towers that it then leases space on to wireless carriers and other players looking for a strengthened signal reach. I mentioned the 5G revolution as a catalyst for Digital Realty Trust, and it's going to be an even bigger factor for American Tower. As data travels faster, carriers are going to need a bigger presence on antenna towers.
American Tower is perpetually expanding its presence. It spent roughly $3.8 billion to acquire 3,477 communications sites and other communications infrastructure for all of 2020. It's digging even deeper into its pockets in 2021. In January it announced a $9.4 billion deal that will dramatically boost its presence in Europe and Latin America.
Growth isn't glitzy here, but it's consistent. You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the last time that annual revenue growth wasn't positive. The 2% yield is the lowest on the list, but American Tower has boosted its quarterly payout every quarter -- yes, every quarter -- since it began distributions in late 2011 as part of its transformation into a REIT.
Innovative Industrial Properties
Let's go from data centers and wireless towers to something more organic -- pot. Innovative Industrial Properties bills itself as the first and only real estate company on the New York Stock Exchange laser-focused on the regulated U.S. cannabis industry. Earlier this month it offered an operating update, fleshing out its portfolio of 68 properties representing 6 million rentable square feet of specialized industrial and greenhouse buildings that it leases out to the growing cannabis industry.
There are risks here, of course. Various states are in various stages of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, but the tide can turn in any market. It's hard to see data centers and cell towers not growing in relevance over the years, but this one has a much higher ceiling as well as a much lower floor.
Revenue more than doubled last year for Innovative Industrial Properties, and the shares have followed suit over the past year. The recently increased 3% yield is obviously not the star attraction here, but the same can be said about all three names on this list. If you believe in data centers, wireless, or cannabis as industries that will continue to evolve, you can sacrifice the growth of betting on a single player in exchange for steadier results and quarterly dividend checks by riding the coattails of the real estate that the players need.