NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I just got back from my annual trip to Las Vegas to attend ReCon 2013. At that event, which I call the Super Bowl of shopping centers, I interviewed the CEOs of many leading retail real estate investment trusts, and got to understand firsthand how the retail market is performing and got a feel for the pulse of the overall consumer landscape.
One of my favorite regional mall REITs is
. Not nearly as big as
Simon Property Group
-- the $86.6 billion gorilla (market cap) -- Taubman is a smaller sister with a total capitalization of around $11 billion.
As I learned at the ReCon conference, Taubman is one of the most active REIT developers today. The company has many new projects under way as it uses its healthy balance sheet (28% debt to market cap ratio).
Taubman has healthy coverage ratios that consist of interest coverage of 2.9x and fixed-charge coverage of 2.3x. Those ratios indicate Taubman's ability to cover its interest expenses and fixed charges. The company refinanced its credit line in February -- a $1.1 billion line maturing in March 2017.
The company's portfolio of 24 properties has allowed it to generate strong returns including a year-over-year total return which includes share price appreciation plus dividend payments of 23.4% (source: SNL Financial) and over 12% over the last 90 days.
The portfolio of tenants consists of better to high-quality brands that generate exceptional dividend safety. Taubman has NEVER cut its dividend since going public in 1992; the current dividend yield is 2.33%.
In March, Taubman declared a regular quarterly dividend of 50 cents per share, an increase of 8.1%. Since going public, it has increased its dividend 16 times, achieving a 4.2% compounded annual growth rate.
While Taubman's consistency in increasing its income distributions has merit, I cannot justify recommending shares now at $86.02 because of the company's price-to-funds from operation multiple of 23.6.
However, I do like Taubman's $170 million, 6.25% preferred stock offering completed in March. That was the lowest perpetual preferred coupon ever achieved by an unrated REIT issuer and the series K (TCO-K) is trading at $25.69.
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At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.