REITs Worth Bragging About

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's time for report cards! No, not the ones that my kids get each semester, but the annual progress reports that provide a written evaluation of the best and worst companies across the land.

Of course in REIT-dom, we investors are looking for the best landlords who have a proficiency in one subject matter: paying out dividends. After all, the best kids are generally the ones that have the highest grades and also maintain them consistently.

That's why I wanted to brag about some of the more exceptional REITs -- ones that have earned a reputation for paying out nice fat dividends north of 5% -- and also for producing consistency in the classroom. For the combined attributes of high returns and repeatable income is what I believe "intelligent REIT investing" is all about. Let's take a look at the hard-working bunch.

Medical Properties Trust ( MPW): Birmingham-based Medical Properties Trust turned in an exceptional strong year-end report card. The pure-play hospital landlord reported that its fourth-quarter normalized funds from operations (or FFO) per diluted share was 25 cents, an increase of 32% over 2011 FFO of 19 cents per diluted share. For the full-year 2012, MPW reported 90 cents Normalized FFO per share representing a 27% increase over the 71 cents per share in 2011.

Also, MPW announced that the company had the highest annual acquisition volume recorded as the REIT managed to purchase more than $800 million in investments during 2012, including more than $168 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. MPW paid a 2012 fourth-quarter cash dividend of 20 cents per share, resulting in a dividend payout ratio of a very well-covered 80% of normalized FFO.

MPW has a market capitalization of $1.974 billion, and shares are trading at $14.40 per share. The current dividend yield is 5.56% and the year-over-year total return is 60.36%.

Healthcare Trust of America ( HTA): Scottsdale-based Healthcare Trust of America also turned in an exceptional report card (keep in mind that this is the first year-end earnings report since HTA listed its shares on June 6, 2012). The pure-play medical office building (or MOB) REIT reported its normalized FFO increased by 23.1% to 16 cents per share ($34.2 million) as compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Also, same-property cash NOI increased by $1.6 million or by 3.8%, compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.

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