The path to growth in this business, however is not always straight. While the company signed new agreements last month with Idaho, and renewed an agreement with Oklahoma, California is reducing its use of private facilities, and intends to end its agreement with the company by 2016.
The bigger news, however, was the May announcement that the company is exploring conversion to the REIT structure again. This time around, Corrections Corp. is doing its homework on the notion of converting into a taxable REIT subsidiary, which would allow the company to remain as a single entity and not be divided into a REIT and an operating company. While no final decision has been made, management has stated that a conversion could happen as quickly as January of next year. If that's the way they end up going, I hope the result is better than the late 1990's debacle.
In June, Corrections Corp. initiated a 20-cent quarterly dividend, which puts the indicated yield at a healthy 2.6%. That is a positive in my view, and signals some confidence in the business by management. The assumption would be a higher dividend in the event the company actually coverts to a REIT, but that remains to be seen.
Just how profitable is the corrections business? The company has averaged a 9.5% net profit margin over the past five years. Some may find profit margins generated through incarceration distasteful. But in an era of budget austerity, states with fiscal woes may have no choice but to look to the private sector.
In the world of publicly traded equities, it does not get much stranger than for-profit prisons. But did I tell you the one about the publicly traded funeral home chain, or the little company that converts fish into vitamin supplements? I'll save those for another day.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.