That’s because a freakishly high distribution yield can inevitably be the result of a collapse in share price, an impending dividend cut, or both.
Instead, just like when we look at buying stocks, we need to focus on REITs that have quality assets and management while also owning properties in the right sectors.
That’s been proved by Singapore’s top-performing REITs and property trusts over the past 10 years (see table above).
According to SGX, the 10 best-performing S-REITs and trusts (that have had at least a decade of listing history) delivered average annualised total returns of 12.5% over the period.
Compare that to Singapore’s benchmark Straits Times Index – which managed an annualised total return of just 4.1% over the decade – and it becomes clear that owning the best-in-class REITs does pay off over the long term.
As for the much sought-after “high yield” REITs, out of the top five only one currently yields more than 5%. It’s an apt illustration of how the total return figure matters much more than the dividend yield.
Riding the property trends
As for the best performers, it turns out to be the usual suspects. Mapletree Industrial Trust (SGX: ME8U) tops the list with an average annualised return of a whopping 16.7%.
The REIT started out life in the public markets in October 2010, with an initial real estate portfolio of 70 properties, valued at S$2.1 billion.
Fast forward to today and that’s grown to 114 properties worth S$6.7 billion, while Mapletree Industrial also started its expansion into the fast-growing data centre space back in 2017.
Meanwhile, REITs like Mapletree Logistics Trust (SGX: M44U), Parkway Life REIT (SGX: C2PU) and Ascendas India Trust (SGX: CY6U) have all benefitted from owning quality assets and operating in property sectors that have robust tailwinds driving demand.
Strong sponsors pay dividends
No surprises came from seeing the top three spots taken by Mapletree REITs given the heft of Mapletree Investments.
The real estate investment firm is a veritable juggernaut and owns, as well as manages, around S$66 billion of data centre, lodging, logistics, mixed-use, office, residential and retail properties.
First off, it allows the REIT access to a pipeline of potential properties to add to its portfolio – most likely at a reasonable valuation.
Secondly, the REIT is under no obligation to buy these properties (if it doesn’t see them adding value) through a mechanism known as “right of first refusal” or ROFR.
Lastly, having a strong sponsor backing a REIT also tends to translate into favourable lending rates given banks and investors tend to view them as more credit-worthy borrowers than smaller independent REITs that have no sponsor.
Bringing home the DPU
Overall, for investors looking into the REIT space, it pays to have a long-term perspective on what assets you want exposure to.
That’s because some REITs might now be out of favour (because the “flavour of the month” is reopening plays) but over the longer term quality wins out.
Yet only by taking a long-term perspective, of at least five years but ideally more, can we truly appreciate which REITs have a rock-solid track record of rewarding investors.
Disclaimer: ProsperUs Head of Content Tim Phillips owns shares of Mapletree Industrial Trust, Mapletree Logistics Trust and Parkway Life REIT.
Tim, based in Singapore but from Hong Kong, caught the investing bug as a teenager and is a passionate advocate of responsible long-term investing as a great way to build wealth.
He has worked in various content roles at Schroders and the Motley Fool, with a focus on Asian stocks, but believes in buying great businesses – wherever they may be. He is also a certified SGX Academy Trainer.
In his spare time, Tim enjoys running after his two young sons, playing football and practicing yoga.