Is Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust A Cheap REIT Now?

After a big decline in the local stock market over the past few months, many companies and real estate investment trusts are now trading at much lower price points.

One such REIT is Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust (SGX: T82U), which counts local malls and commercial buildings like Suntec City and One Raffles Quay as part of its portfolio. The REIT has fallen by 12% over the past six months to its current price of S$1.51.

With the double-digit decline, is Suntec REIT a cheap REIT now? Let’s find out.

The art of value

The value of a REIT should be a key deciding factor for investors when it comes to making an investing decision.

There are two main ways for investors to estimate the value of a REIT. One method works forward, in that an investor will try to estimate the growth rates that a REIT will achieve in important financial metrics like its distributions per unit.

The other works backward, in that we can look at a REIT’s current price and work out how much growth the market’s expecting the trust to achieve. From that, we can determine if the market’s expectations are reasonable or ridiculous.

Moving backwards

In this example, we’d be using a variant of a simple dividend discount model called the Gordon Growth Model to figure out the market’s growth-expectations regarding Suntec REIT’s distirbutions.

A dividend discount model is meant to value a company based on the total amount of dividends that the firm would distribute to its shareholders in perpetuity; the Gordon Growth Model simply adds in a factor to account for a company’s future growth in dividends. The formula for the Gordon Growth Model is shown below:

Share Price = Expected Dividend Per Share One Year From Now / (Discount Rate – Dividend Growth Rate)

Suntec REIT’s annual distribution for its fiscal year ended 31 December 2014 (2014) was 9.4 cents per unit, up 0.8% from the figure of 9.328 cents seen a year ago. With the REIT’s distribution per unit (DPU) of 7.25 cents in the first-three-quarters of 2015, we can probably make a reasonable assumption for the sake of this exercise that the trust’s annualised DPU for 2015 will come to 9.67 cents.

As for the Discount Rate, the textbook method, which follows the Capital Asset Pricing Model (it’s perfectly acceptable to not follow the CAPM when trying to estimate the value of a stock or REIT, but I’d still use the model in here for the sake of completeness), is to incorporate the risk-free rate as well as the beta of Suntec REIT.

The risk-free rate is normally taken to be the 10-year government bond yield; currently, the yield on a 10-year Singapore government bond is 2.38% and so, that shall be our risk-free rate.

Meanwhile, the beta of any stock is simply a measure of a stock’s volatility in relation to a broad market index; in Suntec REIT’s case, data taken from investing research outfit Morningstar has the beta figure pegged at 1.07.

With the explanations out of the way, here’s how the formula for the Discount Rate looks like:

Discount Rate = Risk Free Rate + Beta (Market Return – Risk Free Rate)

You’d notice that there’s one last variable in the Discount Rate formula which I have not discussed, and that is the Market Return.

The Market Return is simply the long-term return of the stock market as a whole. In this exercise, I’d be using the long-run return of the SDPR STI ETF (SGX: ES3), an exchange-traded fund which tracks Singapore’s market barometer, the Straits Times Index (SGX: ^STI). Since its inception in April 2002, the SPDR STI ETF has generated a total return (inclusive of reinvested dividends) of 6.8%.

So, when we input all the relevant figures into the Discount Rate formula, we’d end up with a Discount Rate of 7.1% for Suntec REIT.

The next thing we have to do now is to punch all the numbers we have obtained so far into the Gordon Growth Model. This is what we’d end up with:

1.51 = 0.0967 / (0.071 – Dividend Growth Rate)

As you can see, the only variable now that’s unknown in the Gordon Growth Model is Suntec REIT’s future growth in distributions. Some basic arithmetic will show that the market expects the trust’s DPU to grow at an average pace of 0.7% annually over the long-term.

So what’s the value?

The expected growth rate of 0.7% can then be compared against our own assessment of what Suntec REIT may be able to achieve.

So, based on all the above assumptions, if you expect Suntec REIT to be able to grow its distributions at a faster clip than 0.7% annually, the trust will be undervalued at S$1.51. But, if you’re not confident at all about Suntec REIT’s growth and think that its future distributions will step up at a much slower pace, then S$1.51 might be too high a price to pay.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore writer Stanley Lim doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned.