Are REIT Dividends Ready to Make a Comeback?

Includes: HTS, IRC, NLY, PSA, VNO
by: Jim Trippon

One of the most discouraging aspects of the all those financial sector dividend cuts that investors had to endure last year was the fact that real estate investment trusts (REITs) were anything but off limits. In fact, once the dividend-cutting ball got rolling in the financial services space, REITs got steamrolled. Well, these companies actually steamrolled shareholders by paring or eliminating their previously fat dividends. The best case scenario was that a REIT moved from a cash dividend to a stock dividend. The worst case scenario was an all-out elimination of the payout.

Overall, 2009 was the worst year for REIT dividends since 2000 as 59 REITs slashed or eliminated their dividends due to the financial crisis. Well, after the industry raised $33 billion in fresh capital, a dozen REITs look poised to raise their quarterly payouts, according to Bloomberg News. Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO) has gotten the REITs off to a good start this year by announcing that it will revert back to a cash dividend from a stock payout and Bloomberg said Annaly Capital Management (NYSE: NLY), Inland Real Estate (NYSE: IRC) and Public Storage (NYSE: PSA) are among the group of 12 REITs that could raise their dividends.

Three of the 12 REITs are focused on mortgage investments while the rest are involved in the property management space. Hatteras Financial (NYSE: HTS), one of the few REITs that rewarded shareholders in 2009, is also primed for a dividend increase, Bloomberg said. Hatteras boosted its payout several times last year.

This is certainly encouraging news for REIT investors and we've been looking for a way to include a REIT or two in the Dividend Genius portfolio. We're not committing to the sector quite yet, but a move back by the REITs to boost their dividends to pre-crisis levels would be compelling.

Disclosure: No positions