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Is Lippo Malls Indonesia Retail Trust a Risky Investment?

Lippo Malls Indonesia Retail Trust (SGX: D5IU), or LMIRT for short, is an Indonesian retail REIT listed in Singapore. It owns a portfolio of 23 retail malls and seven retail spaces located across four cities in Indonesia.

Last year, LMIRT increased its debt load to acquire two new properties, which prompted Moody’s to review the trust’s credit rating. If its credit rating is downgraded, LMIRT’s ability to secure additional loans or refinancing might be compromised. It might consequently have to obtain loans at a higher interest rate. A higher cost of debt, will, in turn, affect earnings and distributions.

I have done some research on the REIT and have concluded that despite Moody’s review on the REIT’s credit rating, LMIRT has been able to manage its debt strategically over the years and going forward, it is more than likely to be able to repay any debt obligations it currently owes.

Gearing ratio

The first reason I believe this is the case is that LMIRT has a gearing ratio that seems very manageable. The gearing ratio is the total debt compared to the total assets of the trust. As of 31 December 2017, LMIT had a gearing ratio of 33.7% (including perpetuities).

This is well within the Monetary Authority of Singapore regulatory cap for REITs of 45%. The relatively low gearing means that the REIT still has debt headroom to increase its debt load even further.

Interest coverage

The interest coverage ratio measures the REIT’s ability to pay its interest expenses each year. Mathematically, it is calculated by dividing financial expense by net property income.

For the year 2017,  LMIRT had a net property income of S$184.2 million and financial expense of S$31.5 million. This translates to an interest coverage ratio of roughly six times.

An interest coverage ratio of above five is considered very safe. By that mark, LMIRT falls well within the safe zone.

Cost of borrowing

Finally, LMIRT has an average cost of debt at 4.7%. Yes, this may be relatively high compared to other retail REITs in Singapore. Similar retail REITs such as CapitaLand Mall Trust (SGX:C38U), CapitaLand Retail China Trust (SGX:AU8U), and Fortune REIT (SGX:F25U) have an average cost of debt at 3.2%, 2.81% and 2.41% respectively.

However, LMIRT has one of the highest property yields at 9.65%. This more than makes up for its high cost of debt such that the trust can easily pay off its finance costs. To put this in perspective CapitaLand mall Trust, CapitaLand Retail China Trust and Fortune REIT have property yields of 5.3%, 5.8% and 3.6% respectively.

The Foolish bottom line

LMIRT has previously had an aggressive expansion strategy that relied mostly on borrowing for further acquisitions. Despite this, their overall capital management looks prudently managed.  It has a relatively low gearing ratio, a high interest coverage ratio and an asset yield that more than makes up for its borrowing cost.

All things considered, I believe that the REIT has put in place prudent debt management strategy and has the means to see through all of its current financial obligations.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. The Motley Fool Singapore has recommended units of CapitaLand Mall Trust and CapitaLand Retail China Trust. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Jeremy Chia doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.