My own preference - and you knew this was coming - is our third category: investment in productive assets, whether businesses, farms, or real estate. Ideally, these assets should have the ability in inflationary times to deliver output that will retain its purchasing-power value while requiring a minimum of new capital investment. Farms, real estate, and many businesses such as Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), IBM (NYSE:IBM) and our own See's Candy meet that double-barreled test. Certain other companies - think of our regulated utilities, for example - fail it because inflation places heavy capital requirements on them. To earn more, their owners must invest more. Even so, these investments will remain superior to nonproductive or currency-based assets.
And in the 2010 annual letter, the legendary investor wrote:
Unquestionably, some people have become very rich through the use of borrowed money. However, that's also been a way to get very poor. When leverage works, it magnifies your gains. Your spouse thinks you're clever, and your neighbors get envious. But leverage is addictive. Once having profited from its wonders, very few people retreat to more conservative practices. And as we all learned in third grade - and some relearned in 2008 - any series of positive numbers, however impressive the numbers may be, evaporates when multiplied by a single zero. History tells us that leverage all too often produces zeroes, even when it is employed by very smart people.
And finally, in the Oracle for Omaha's 2009 letter, Buffett wrote
To build a compatible shareholder population, we try to communicate with our owners directly and informatively. Our goal is to tell you what we would like to know if our positions were reversed. Additionally, we try to post our quarterly and annual financial information on the Internet early on weekends, thereby giving you and other investors plenty of time during a non-trading period to digest just what has happened at our multi-faceted enterprise. (Occasionally, SEC deadlines force a non-Friday disclosure.) These matters simply can't be adequately summarized in a few paragraphs, nor do they lend themselves to the kind of catchy headline that journalists sometimes seek.
Real Estate, Dividends, and Communicating with Owners
Next week (November 13-15) I will be attending REITWorld 2012®: NAREIT's Annual Convention for All Things REIT® (in San Diego this year) to take advantage of the many opportunities to hear first-hand from REIT executives, engage your peers, learn from experts in the real estate investment community, and forge new relationships through the many networking opportunities available. REITWorld brings together investors, commercial real estate executives, and service providers to create an extraordinary opportunity to build your business.
For those of you "seeking the most alpha" in REIT-dom, I welcome anyone interested to submit a question or comment and I will try to provide answers when I return. I plan to meet over 25 REIT CEO's and attend several group discussions. As you know, I have written on numerous REITs this year including:
Camden Property Trust (NYSE:CPT), Essex Property Trust (NYSE:ESS), Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG), Realty Income (NYSE:O), American Realty Capital Trust (NASDAQ:ARCT), American Realty Capital Properties (ARCP). Macerich Co. (NYSE:MAC), Federal Realty (NYSE:FRT), National Retail Properties (NYSE:NNN), Whitestone REIT (NYSEMKT:WSR), Regency Centers (NYSE:REG), Vornado Realty (NYSE:VNO), Kimco Realty (NYSE:KIM), CBL Properties (NYSE:CBL), Excel Trust (NYSE:EXL), Extra Space Storage (NYSE:EXR), W.P. Carey (NYSE:WPC), American Campus Communities (NYSE:ACC), Cedar Realty Trust (NYSE:CDR), Taubman Centers (NYSE:TCO), Sprit Realty Capital (NYSE:SRC), Tanger Factory Outlets (NYSE:SKT), CapLease (NYSE:LSE), Monmouth REIT (NYSE:MNR), Campus Crest (NYSE:CCG), Healthcare Trust of America (NYSE:HTA), Weingarten Realty Investors (NYSE:WRI), General Growth (NYSE:GGP), STAG Industrial (NYSE:STAG), AmREIT (NYSE:AMRE), Cousins Properties (NYSE:CUZ), Retail Opportunity Investment Corp. (NASDAQ:ROIC), Washington REIT (NYSE:WRE), Equity Lifestyle (NYSE:ELS), Lexington Realty Trust (NYSE:LXP), Ventas Inc (NYSE:VTR), CubeSmart (NYSE:CUBE), Omega Healthcare (NYSE:OHI), Entertainment Properties Trust (NYSE:EPR), EastGroup (NYSE:EGP), and UMH Properties (NYSEMKT:UMH).
As Buffet said "leverage all too often produces zeroes, even when it is employed by very smart people". After having witnessed one of the worst financial disasters in the history of REIT-dom, most of the equity REITs are now experiencing a dramatic comeback - making the case that REITs are slowly recovering, corporate profits are healthy, and some of the worst offenders are assiduously moving to repair the damage of the past.
I would love to hear what you think. I will attempt not to offer the "catchy headlines that journalists sometimes seek" but instead provide valuable and sound research aimed to benefit the most "intelligent REIT investors".
For more information on REITWorld click here.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.