Insider Buying Supports a Bullish Case for Simon Property Group

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There are many reasons why investors will sell a stock. We’re only human after all. But there’s usually only one reason they buy a stock. And by the looks of it, there are many insiders buying Simon Property Group(US:SPG) stock.

Using Fintel’s Insider Net Buyer Count Rankings, I see that SPG stock was the target of higher than usual insider buying. The stock garners an Insider Sentiment score of 77.57.

It’s not only insiders that are buying the stock. Over the last 12 months, institutional buyers are also pouring into SPG stock. In fact, the dollar amount purchased was almost twice that being sold. Institutions currently hold about 83% of the company’s stock.

Indianapolis-based Simon is the second-largest real estate investment trust in the U.S. Its portfolio includes an interest in 207 properties: 119 traditional malls, 69 premium outlets, 14 Mills centers (a combination of a traditional mall, outlet center, and big-box retailers), six lifestyle centers, and five other retail properties.

Lagging Indexes

Simon Property Group is lagging the major indexes. NYSE-traded SPG stock is down 14% since early February as the S&P 500 index is up 5.5%. The ALPS Active REIT ETF (US:REITis down 7.8% in the same time. At an allocation of 6.91%, SPG stock is the second-largest holding in that actively managed exchange-traded fund, which currently holds 29 stocks.

At the same time, some key fundamental metrics are suggesting that SPG stock is undervalued. Whenever a curious investor gets a disparity between the price of a stock and its underlying value, it’s worth a closer look. So let’s see why Simon Property Group looks like a buy.

The Death of American Malls is (Mildly) Exaggerated

It’s not inaccurate to say that overall mall traffic has been declining for many years. A global pandemic has only made that worse. But as is the case with most real estate transactions, location matters. And that’s where the story gets interesting for Simon Property Group.

Simon Property Group is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that primarily operates what are known as “Class A malls.” As the name suggests, these are the nation’s premium malls that share a few characteristics:

  • They are all located in major populous cities
  • They attract high quality tenants
  • As a result of those two attributes, Class A malls have the highest sales per square foot.

Recent studies are showing that, rather than dying, malls — particularly of the Class A variety — are seeing a renaissance of sorts. As it turns out when consumers have a more flexible working arrangement, they may be more inclined to visit the mall.

And, while a recent survey of shoppers by Harvard Business Review shows that e-commerce is as alive as ever, there’s still a place for traditional brick-and-mortar retail.

Fundamentals Look Attractive

As I mentioned earlier, SPG stock is an example of the mis-alignment of price and fundamentals. Simon Property Group trades for a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 9.29. That’s about a 28% discount to its sector.

To put that in perspective, if the stock were trading for around 12.5x earnings, it would correspond to a stock price of about $150. And if you take that P/E ratio up to about 15x which is not a stretch for a REIT like Simon Property Group, the price could easily be $180. That’s an increase of approximately 63% from the stock’s current price of around $109.

Plus, let’s not forget that as a REIT, Simon Property Group pays out at least 90% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. In May, the REIT increased its dividend for the third time in the last 12 months. The current dividend yield is around 6.73%. And based on cash flow, the payout ratio is about 70%.

This article originally appeared on Fintel

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