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This Is Warren Buffett's Favorite REIT. Should You Buy It?

Warren Buffett is famous for his attraction to certain economic sectors. Insurance is one, banks and financial services another, and he's also more than dipped his toes into the energy and industrials sectors, too. One asset category decidedly not associated with the great investor is real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Yet for several years now, STORE Capital (NYSE: STOR) has occupied the lone REIT slot in the equity portfolio of Buffett's investment vehicle Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A)(NYSE: BRK.B). Here's a closer look at the REIT, which is one of the less-famous of the renowned financier's investments.

Netting from a nice niche

STORE Capital is an equity REIT, which we can say is the more common type of REIT that invests in physical property (as opposed to the mortgages underlying it). As its name implies, STORE Capital specializes in retail spaces, but it works in a niche that sets it apart.

"STORE" is actually an acronym, standing for "single tenant operational real estate." In plain language, that means the company focuses on properties suitable for only one tenant (stand-alone estaurants, for example).

Furthermore, it aims to own only real estate that is reliably profitable for its operator. When it finds such an opportunity, its fond of striking sale-leaseback deals, which as the name implies are transactions where a property is bought, then leased back to the original owner.

We can see the attraction for Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway: STORE Capital has a successful business model that sets it apart from its peers, thus providing somewhat of a moat. It also has a tight focus on properties that consistently produce profits.

Happily for STORE Capital, such real estate is hardly rare. According to the company's analysis, the total value of this market approaches $4 trillion. No wonder it likes this niche.

The REIT is good at it, too. Over the years, total revenue has grown substantially, well outpacing many peer equity REITs. Even with a coronavirus-affected dip in the top line in 2020, STORE Capital's revenue ballooned from just over $450 million in 2017 to more than $773 million in 2021, a stretch of only five years.

As sales go, so goes profitability. STORE Capital's funds from operations (considered the truest profitability metric for REITs) have improved from $306 million in 2017 to $554 million in 2021.

Be like Buffett

So that leads us to our headline question: Is it a good idea for you to buy STORE Capital, too? Warren almost certainly thinks so, as Berkshire has held fast to its position in the company since plowing $377 million into its equity in 2017. These days, Berkshire holds a more than 5% stake in the REIT.

I think that's the right call; STORE Capital is a fine buy-and-hold investment.

With those ever-climbing revenue figures and adjusted funds from operations, there's plenty of cash to distribute to shareholders as dividends. Again, taking 2017 as our foundation, from then until now the company's quarterly payout has risen nicely. At the beginning of 2017, it was $0.29 per share; currently it stands at just under $0.39. That shakes out to a yield just shy of 6%, quite lofty even for the famously high-yield dividend club that is the REIT sector.

We should never just blindly imitate a famous and successful investor. In the case of STORE Capital, however, there are some excellent fundamentals and value behind this stock, so by all means, ape Buffett's buy. This is a quality stock to own.

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Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and STORE Capital. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2023 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2023 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short January 2023 $265 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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