For many investors, the UK property market can do no wrong. In recent years it has posted stunning returns, with London and the south east in particular racking up major gains for property investors.
However, things could be about to change. No asset goes up in value forever and it’s never, ever ‘different this time’. And with yields on residential and commercial property in London as well as other parts of the UK now being relatively low, property could prove to be a rather disappointing investment in the short run.
Of course, for long-term investors there are still investment opportunities within the sector. The difference now is that perhaps a wider margin of safety is required. On this front, Tritax Big Box (LSE: BBOX) lacks appeal. That’s because the real estate investment trust (REIT) has a price-to-book (P/B) ratio of 1.35 and while this isn’t exceptionally high, it doesn’t provide a sufficiently wide margin of safety to merit investment given the uncertain outlook for the UK property sector.
Furthermore, with Tritax Big Box forecast to increase its earnings by 7% this year and by a further 4% next year, there seems to be a lack of a major catalyst to push its shares higher. And due to dividends representing close to 100% of profit, dividend growth could be rather less than many investors had hoped for too.
What’s the alternative?
While Tritax Big Box may have rather modest growth prospects, fellow property-focused stock Great Portland Estates (LSE: GPOR) is expected to grow its bottom line by 5% in the current year and then by a further 28% next year. Clearly, its price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 54 is exceptionally high, but when combined with its growth rate it equates to a relatively respectable price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 1.9. This indicates that there’s upside potential.
While Great Portland appears to have a relatively wide margin of safety as well as an appealing asset base, its income prospects are rather disappointing. It yields just 1.2% and although dividends are covered a healthy 1.5 times by profit and could therefore rise, there seem to be better options elsewhere for income-seeking investors.
Meanwhile, Shaftesbury (LSE: SHB) has benefitted from improving investor sentiment recently, with its share price rising by 7% in the last three months. Part of the reason for this could be the 13% forecast rise in Shaftesbury’s earnings for the current year, with further growth of 8% expected for the 2017 financial year.
However, with Shaftesbury trading on a P/E ratio of 63 and having a yield of 1.6%, it lacks value and income appeal at the present time. As such, and while falls of 50% or more may be rather unlikely, it seems to be worth watching rather than buying, alongside Tritax Big Box. And while Great Portland seems to be the pick of the three stocks, there may be better options available elsewhere.
Peter Stephens has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.