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Investing, Indirectly, in Real Estate

Stocks in this article: RT CRESY REPYY LMNR ALCO

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks in my portfolio often have meaningful exposure to real estate. Sometimes, these assets -- be they land, buildings or both -- are part of the business, but real estate, itself, is not the business.

Casual-dining company Ruby Tuesday (RT) is an example. The sometimes-struggling restaurant chain happens to own the land and buildings for 368 of its locations.

Ruby Tuesday is not in the real estate business, but this portfolio may provide some opportunity and options down the line. Of course, the company needs to improve operating performance first and foremost in order to benefit shareholders, but the real estate is a potential sweetener.

There are other names where the land -- or more specifically, what's grown on that land -- is the business. In the past several years, farmland has become a mini-asset class unto itself. It's an important asset, too. They aren't making any more of it, and it's actually been disappearing as populations have pushed into rural areas over the decades. It's also vital to our survival.

Unfortunately, there are not many pure plays on agricultural land available to investors, short of actually buying farmland. But there are enough to at least get some exposure. Many of these names are very small in terms of market cap, and they can be volatile.

Argentine farming company Cresud (CRESY), owns 34 farms with nearly 1.6 million acres of land. That's about 2,500 square miles, or an area half the size of Connecticut and larger than Delaware. The land is used to grow corn, wheat, soybeans, sugarcane and other crops.

Cresud also has a herd of beef and milk cattle that was nearly 77,000 strong at the end of March. Other assets include a 64% stake in in Argentine real estate company IRSA Investments and Representations (IRS) that's worth about $250 million at that company's current market cap.

CRESY Chart CRESY data by YCharts

That's a compelling package of assets, especially considering Cresud's current market cap of about $400 million, but this one is not for the faint of heart.

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