Sunday 18 February 2024

Lesson from my US REIT Investing: Understanding CAPEX Requriments and Age Profile of Buildings

Investing in the US Office space taught me a lesson. Its not about the US real estate cycle but the need to understand the CAPEX requirement of the REITs and the building age profile. For these US office REITs, capital expenditure has to be spent to ensure the property is refreshed As a building ages, more capital expenditure is needed. And CAPEX is a cash expenditure.

It got me wondering why does Keppel Pacific Oak (KORE) require so much CAPEX as compared to Manulife US and PRIME US REITs. A further delve into the IPO prospectus reveals an area investors often not looked at.

KORE Building Age

 MUST Building Age

PRIME US Building Age

Different REIT, Different Age

If one looks at the age of the different buildings each REIT owns, one can notice KORE has a significant number of properties built in the early 80s, putting it as the oldest profile. This is followed by MUST and then PRIME US. For older buildings there is a need for more CAPEX to ensure its relevancy and for things to not fall into a state of disrepair. In fact, corresponding to the age profile, we can see the CAPEX spent by the 3 REITs follows closely to their age profile.

PRIME spends the least and that could be because its buildings are newer. 

How It Affects Us Investors?

For us investors, we have to know CAPEX is not added under the distributable income metrics. This means while the US REITs can give 100% of their income as dividends, they are adding more to their debt for the cash needs of CAPEX. In KORE's case, because its buildings are older, it has to increase its CAPEX, not just to attract tenants but to ensure their buildings do not go down. And the expense effects of CAPEX takes a delayed period of time and not one-off

Distributable Income is not a fair metric for us investors to guage. What we in fact need is to gauge the CAPEX requirements of each US Office REIT to know the sustainable dividend we can get. As shown in my previous article on KORE results, KORE's actual cash generation ability is only about 4.5 US cents and not 5.0 US cents due to the need for CAPEX.

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