I think REITs can be among the best stocks to buy for long-term passive income. Their commitment to pay out at least 90% of annual profits by way of dividends can provide investors with lots of extra cash.
Unite Group (LSE:UTG) is one REIT I’ve been thinking of adding to my own portfolio for some time. And my appetite for the FTSE 100 business has risen following today’s rock-solid year-end update.
So what’s been happening?
Unite is one of the country’s largest providers of student accommodation. And on Tuesday it said it expects adjusted earnings per share (EPS) for 2022 to come in “at the top end” of a predicted 40p to 41p range.
Chief executive Richard Smith commented that “reservations are significantly ahead of recent sales cycles, reflecting strong demand from new and existing students as well as new nomination agreements with universities”.
He added that “we now expect to deliver rental growth of at least 5% for the 2023/24 academic year, which will help offset the cost pressures we are facing through higher utility and staff costs”.
The company had previously expected to record rental growth of between 4.5% and 5%.
Unite said that 70% of its rooms were now sold for the next academic year. That’s up significantly from a figure of 60% that it recorded a year ago for the current academic period.
The business said it is witnessing “an increasing number of students looking to secure accommodation earlier in the sales cycle than previous years”. It said too that demand from universities has also been rising.
Unite clearly has the wind in its sails. In the current economic landscape, though, there’s no guarantee that demand for its rooms will continue to soar. Students might shelve plans to continue studying if the cost-of-living crisis drags on.
But encouragingly City analysts believe Unite’s annual earnings should keep growing even as the UK economy sinks. Earnings rises of 10% and 6% are forecast for 2023 and 2024 respectively.
As a consequence, brokers expect the REIT to keep growing dividends. A predicted 32.55p per share reward for 2022 is expected to rise to 36.1p this year and to 38.2p in 2024.
This means a dividend yield of 3.9% for this year increases to 4.1% for next year.
Why I’d buy this REIT
These aren’t the biggest yields out among British REITs, sure. But as an investor seeking a growing long-term passive income I still think Unite is a top stock to buy.
Estate agent Savills expects Europe’s population of 15-to-19-year-olds to grow 5.8% between now and 2027, suggesting student numbers in the UK should also keep rising strongly. Yet the development pipeline for student accomodation remains weak and a colossal undersupply is looming.
So businesses like Unite can expect strong rental growth in the coming years. And by extension profits and dividends look set to keep rising at a healthy rate, too. With cash to spare I’ll be looking to add this REIT to my shares portfolio soon.