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Saizen REIT: Deeply Undervalued But Not A Buy For All
Aspire, Hot Picks | 08 April 2015
Articles (41) Profile

Regular readers know that I have been invested in Saizen REIT for a long time. Some might even be able to write a script for a K-drama based on my experience with the REIT. Anyway, if you are interested in the history, just use the search function found in the top right area of this blog.

I mentioned Saizen REIT in the last “Evening with AK and friends” session and went on to highlight why it is one of my top three investments in REITs. I think that episode might have interested quite a few members of the audience as I received not one, not two but three emails asking me whether the REIT is priced fairly now. I must say that the emails weren’t phrased exactly like this but they were close enough.

AK: Taken on my last trip to Japan. Love the chocolates. Cheap too.

I will say that we must question, as always, our motivation for thinking of investing in Saizen REIT. Is it for income or capital gain?

Capital Gain

For someone who is thinking of capital gain, the fact that Saizen REIT is trading at a huge discount to valuation might be the reason for his interest. At $0.86 a unit, it is trading at more than 20 percent discount to its Net Asset Value (NAV)/unit of about $1.10. This is despite the continual fall in the JPY against the S$. Even at its high of $0.98 touched almost a year ago, it would still have been undervalued based on the weaker Japanese Yen (JPY) today.

The first question we have to ask, of course, is whether the NAV is realistic. The best way to ascertain this is to see what price Mr. Market is willing to pay for the REIT’s properties. In September last year, I said that the REIT sold two properties at premiums of 19% and 12.8% above book value. That told me that the REIT’s NAV was conservative. In the REIT’s February 2015 presentation, they reported that another property was sold at 16% above valuation.

There is some deep value in Saizen REIT’s portfolio of freehold residential properties in Japan, I believe. However, whether the value could be unlocked and returned to unit holders is much harder to say. Could we see an acquisition by a residential J-REIT? I know that a substantial shareholder, Argyle Street Management (ASM) was pressing for something to this effect.

So, anyone who is buying into Saizen REIT, hoping for value to be unlocked, will have to be patient and also remember that it might or might not happen. While waiting, Saizen REIT offers about $0.06 in Distribution Per Unit (DPU) per year. Based on 86c a unit, that is a distribution yield of about seven percent.

Income Gain

For someone who is thinking of investing in Saizen REIT for income, it is important to bear in mind that income is generated in JPY by the REIT’s assets but converted to S$ for distribution. There is always risk in foreign exchange rates. What do I think?

Gingko tree. So many of them in Japan.

The JPY has fallen a lot in the last two years against the Singapore Dollar (SGD). It is my opinion that any further fall is likely to be mild as:

1. SGD is also weakening because the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is mindful that Singapore must remain competitive and with the dramatic fall in the price of crude oil, Singapore’s economy has become mildly deflationary of late.

2. The Japanese government wouldn’t want to cause hardship for the Japanese people which any greater fall in the value of the JPY might bring. Already, the people are grappling with much higher inflation in prices of imported goods.

Saizen’s Strengths

Having said this, for the income investor, what is very important to note is that Saizen REIT’s loans are amortising in nature. I have mentioned this many times in the past when I was more active in blogging about the REIT. This means that the principle sums shrink over time as they are paid down. Amongst S-REITs, Saizen REIT is probably the only one that has this feature.

Also, amongst S-REITs, Saizen REIT is probably the only one with very long term loans with many maturing in the 2030s and 2040s. Long term loans actually make sense for REITs because property investments are, logically, long term commitments.

Anyway, the point is that because the loans are amortising in nature, Saizen REIT cannot distribute all its income to unitholders. Some of it goes to amortising the loans. However, because Saizen REIT amassed quite a bit of cash from many of its unit holders who exercised their warrants, they are able to use that money to amortise the loans, distributing income as if the loans were non-amortising. One day, this money will run out. Then what?

Then, everything remaining equal, we might see the DPU reduce by two fifths. So, distribution yield might become 4% then. This is something investors in Saizen REIT at the current price must be aware of and be comfortable with.

Saizen’s Future

I estimated before that it would be many years down the road before it happens but when it does happen, the REIT would be even stronger in its balance sheet as its debt burden would have reduced significantly. I like this very much as it would give the REIT more debt headroom to acquire more properties which would mean a higher DPU. In other words, the REIT would be able to grow without having to raise funds from its unit holders.

There are many things which I cannot foresee happening or not happening. Could Abenomics breathe life into Japan’s economy in a sustainable manner? Would demand for housing improve, leading to higher occupancy and asking rents? Would the JPY sink much lower?  These are some questions I do not have definite answers to.

However, there are some things that I do know and those are the things that inform my decision to be invested in Saizen REIT, those are the things that tell me Saizen REIT matches my motivation as an income investor. If there should be an unlocking of value sometime in the next few years, it would be a bonus for me. In the meantime, I am quite happy to be paid regularly.

AK is a Singaporean stock market investor and a popular blogger. Hisblog was created with the intention of educating investors and sharing his investing journey with the target of having a more secure financial future in an uncertain world by creating a stream of reliable passive income with high yields.

AK is a Singaporean stock market investor and a popular blogger. His blog was created with the intention of educating investors and sharing his investing journey with the target of having a more secure financial future in an uncertain world by creating a stream of reliable passive income with high yields.

Please click here for more information about this author.

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