Should You Invest In Washington Prime Group Inc (NYSE:WPG)?

Washington Prime Group Inc is a US$1.5b small-cap, real estate investment trust (REIT) based in Columbus, United States. REITs own and operate income-generating property and adhere to a different set of regulations. This impacts how WPG’s business operates and also how we should analyse its stock. In this commentary, I’ll take you through some of the things I look at when assessing WPG.

View our latest analysis for Washington Prime Group

A common financial term REIT investors should know is Funds from Operations, or FFO for short, which is a REIT’s main source of income from its portfolio of property, such as rent. FFO is a cleaner and more representative figure of how much WPG actually makes from its day-to-day operations, compared to net income, which can be affected by one-off activities or non-cash items such as depreciation. For WPG, its FFO of US$328m makes up 63% of its gross profit, which means the majority of its earnings are high-quality and recurring.

NYSE:WPG Historical Debt November 9th 18
NYSE:WPG Historical Debt November 9th 18

Robust financial health can be measured using a common metric in the REIT investing world, FFO-to-debt. The calculation roughly estimates how long it will take for WPG to repay debt on its balance sheet, which gives us insight into how much risk is associated with having that level of debt on its books. With a ratio of 11%, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor would consider this as aggressive risk. This would take WPG 8.85 years to pay off using just operating income, which is a long time, and risk increases with time. But realistically, companies have many levers to pull in order to pay back their debt, beyond operating income alone.

I also look at WPG’s interest coverage ratio, which demonstrates how many times its earnings can cover its yearly interest expense. This is similar to the concept above, but looks at the upcoming obligations. The ratio is typically calculated using EBIT, but for a REIT stock, it’s better to use FFO divided by net interest. With an interest coverage ratio of 2.59x, WPG is not generating an appropriate amount of cash from its borrowings. Typically, a ratio of greater than 3x is seen as safe.

I also use FFO to look at WPG’s valuation relative to other REITs in United States by using the price-to-FFO metric. This is conceptually the same as the price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, but as previously mentioned, FFO is more suitable. In WPG’s case its P/FFO is 4.55x, compared to the long-term industry average of 16.5x, meaning that it is highly undervalued

Next Steps:

As a REIT, Washington Prime Group offers some unique characteristics which could help diversify your portfolio. However, before you decide on whether or not to invest in WPG, I highly recommend taking a look at other aspects of the stock to consider:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for WPG’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for WPG’s outlook.
  2. Valuation: What is WPG worth today? Is the stock undervalued, even when its growth outlook is factored into its intrinsic value? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether WPG is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.