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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Q Net Asset Value (NAV) estimates are far from precise. It’s very common to see NAV estimates for a given REIT spanning a broad range, with some being as much as 30% higher than others. Why base a model on such an imprecise estimate?
A NAV is admittedly an imprecise estimate of value. It may be best to consider NAV as the midpoint of a reasonable range in which a figure at least 5% higher or lower than the midpoint might be accurate. Reasonable minds can disagree within this range. However, this lack of precision should not be viewed as a serious shortcoming. Every valuation methodology lacks precision, and alternative methodologies are almost certainly less precise than NAV. For instance, where do appropriate Price/Earnings (P/E) multiples come from? EBITDA multiples? An NAV-based approach componentizes the valuation question into discrete pieces and incorporates private-market pricing information, attributes that should yield a higher level of precision than a broad-brush approach to entity valuation. When analyst estimates of NAV fall well outside a reasonable range, this probably reflects the quality of the analysis, as opposed to the metric’s quality. In addition, most analysts only mark-to-market the left-hand side of the balance sheet; Green Street marks-to-market the right-hand side too. NAV calculations require a great deal of time, energy, and expertise to get right; big errors likely occur when shortcuts are taken.
Q An NAV analysis is only as good as the cap rate applied to net operating income (NOI). Where does Green Street get its cap rates?
A The choice of cap rates is the most important input in our model. Our analysts spend a great deal of time talking to market participants (e.g., REIT executives, private real estate participants, brokers, etc.), compiling databases of comparable transactions, reading trade publications, reviewing findings of providers of transaction information, and understanding the extent to which contractual rents are above or below market.
Q As the REIT industry continues to mature, analysts and investors will inevitably value these stocks the same way the vast majority of other stocks are valued. Approaches based on P/E multiples, EBITDA multiples, or discounted cash flow models will take the place of a REIT-centric concept like NAV. After all, no one tries to figure out the NAV of General Motors or Microsoft, so why bother to do so with REITs?
A The simple answer to this question is that investors in other sectors would use NAV if they could. However, their inability to do so relegates them to using generally inferior metrics. Thoughtfully applied alternative approaches to valuation should result in similar answers to an NAV-based approach, but these other methods must be used with caution.
Q REITs are more than just a collection of assets. Management matters a lot, and an NAV-based approach can’t possibly factor that in.
A Contrary to a widespread misperception, the use of an NAV-based model is consistent with a view that management is important. As long as an NAV-based model provides output with a sizable variance in company-specific warranted premiums/discounts, that model is implicitly acknowledging that management matters significantly. Capital allocation and balance sheet management are by far the key differentiators of management capabilities.
Q Many REITs own hundreds of properties spread across the U.S., and an asset-by-asset appraisal would take an enormous amount of time. How can an analyst know the value of any given portfolio?
A A reasonable NAV estimate can be derived if disclosure at the portfolio level is sufficient to allow for a comparison of the characteristics of a given portfolio with the characteristics of properties that have traded hands. No two portfolios are exactly the same, but plenty of pricing benchmarks exist to allow for adjustments based on portfolio location, quality, lease structure, growth prospects, etc.
Q REITs have broad latitude in how they expense many operating costs. Can an NAV-based approach be fooled if a REIT inflates NOI by moving costs to the General & Administrative (G&A) expense line?
A Yes. This is why an explicit valuation adjustment for G&A expense is included in our pricing model. It identifies companies that shift expenses in ways that are inconsistent with those of its peers.
Q An NAV analysis derived from real estate NOI seemingly ignores capital expenditures (cap-ex). How does cap-ex factor into the analysis?
A One of the easiest ways to make big mistakes in an NAV analysis is to utilize simple rules of thumb with regard to cap-ex. Most rules of thumb undercount the magnitude of cap-ex. In addition, the range of appropriate reserves varies hugely by property sector, property quality, and accounting practices. Each factor needs to be addressed before choosing the cap-ex reserve to utilize for a particular portfolio. The real estate portfolios in any sector that offer the highest quality, best growth, and lowest risk should be accorded the highest valuation multiples (lowest cap rates), and vice versa. Thus, it is important to rank the portfolios relative to each other and to then ensure “economic” cap rates (based on NOI less a cap-ex reserve) line up in this manner. An analysis that does not back out cap-ex costs, and is instead based off of nominal cap rates, will generate misleading relative conclusions.
Q NAV is a backward looking metric.
A Real estate markets are active and liquid, and when buyers and sellers agree on deal terms (e.g., cap rates, price/square foot, etc.), those terms reflect their views of future prospects. When prevailing cap rates are applied to a REIT’s forward-looking NOI estimate, the result is an estimate of value that is as forward looking as any other approach toward valuing stocks.

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A Strong Connection with Size