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The recent talk of the town is the upcoming Prime US REIT IPO. Prime US REIT is a US-based office REIT that offered an attractive yield of 7.6% at the offer price of US$0.88 per unit. The other plus points of Prime REIT are that its office properties are freehold and have long WALE of 5.5 years. The public offering will end on 15 July 2019 (Monday). Despite the many star attributes, I will not be taking part in this office REIT IPO due to 3 main reasons.
1. The US economy is weakening with the ongoing trade war
James Powell just gave an indication of a possible Federal Reserve interest rate cut in view of weak US economic fundamentals. Global economies are in the doldrums. Singapore is already facing technical recession due to the close association with external export.
Deutsche bank worldwide 18,000 job cuts in investment banking, clearly shows that not all is good in banking these days. The bulk of the axe is believed to be falling on Wall Street (US) and Europe. Such grand-scale layoff closely resembled the loss of banking jobs in the aftermath of the failure of Lehman Brothers during the Global Financial Crisis days in 2008.
The increasing amount of bad economic news is worrying and will definitely dampen investors and consumers sentiment. I prefer to take a wait and see approach on upcoming quarterly/mid-year financial reporting of major companies first. There is no need to rush in to grab any IPO as if they are selling hotcakes at this juncture.
2. Long WALE of 5.5 years does not mean that the profits of Prime US REIT will not drop.
The theoretical point here is that the WALE of 5.5 years is an “average”. If the recession kicks off next year and drag for another 1 to 2 years, chances are some of the tenancy of units in the portfolio will be expiring. Given the possible bad state of the economy and lack of business activities in the event of such a pessimistic scenario, most of such tenants will either be reducing their office sizes or closing down offices. Any successful rental reversion will also most likely be negative for the landlord.
3. Prime US REIT is denominated in USD- Forex exposure for Singapore investors
Forex is always a double-edged sword. If you believe that the US economy and widening annual deficit will lead to an eventual weakening or even possible collapse of the USD, best to stay away. However, if one believes US economy is ever innovating and have sufficient resources such as shale oil to fund the deficit and recover, then it should appreciate steadily.
I actually like Prime US REIT a lot for its many good attributes as well as good geographical diversification for my investment portfolio. However, in view of all the bad news emerging in the global economies as well as locally, I thought I will give this interesting IPO a miss for now and see whether there are better opportunities opening up in Q3 2019.
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