Investing in REITs – The Options, and How the Kenyan Market Works

By Korir Isaac / Published July 28, 2021 | 3:36 pm




KEY POINTS

Investors looking to invest in REITs require a minimum investment amount of 5 million shillings as per the current regulations. 


REITs

Since the introduction of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs, in Kenya in 2013, they have picked traction and opened a new investment asset class accessible to both local and foreign investors.

REITs are a regulated investment vehicle which operates and finances income-producing real estate. Like any company share, they are traded on the NSE, and they offer investors a liquid stake in real estate.

How Do REITs Work?

In a nutshell, REITs have the same operating principle as mutual funds. They allow individual investors to acquire ownership in a real estate portfolio.

REITs promoters source funds to build or acquire real estate assets, which they sell or rent to generate income. The income generated is then distributed to the investors as returns/dividends in investing in real estate trusts.

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The property is held by a trustee on behalf of unitholders and professionally managed by a REIT manager.

Types of REITs

In Kenya, there are three main types of REITs. They include:

  • Income Real Estate Investment Trusts (I-REITs): These are real estate trusts that largely derive their revenue from rental properties. The dividends and returns are gained through rental income and capital appreciation from the investments undertaken.
  • Development Real Estate Investment Trust (D-REITs): Resources in this type of real estate trust are pooled together for purposes of developing real estate projects. Once a development has been completed, a D-REIT may be converted to an I-REIT and here the investors may choose to either re-invest their funds, sell, lease their shares or they can choose to sell the developments that have been undertaken.
  • Islamic Real Estate Investment Trusts: This is a unique type of REIT that only undertakes Shari’ah-compliant activities. A fund manager is required to do a compliance test before investing in this type of REIT to ensure it is Shari’ah compliant.

Why Invest in REITs?

REITs have myriads of benefits for investors. For one, it has competitive long-term results since its performance is derived from real estate investments. And we all know that over time, real estate can outperform other asset classes.

REITs, like fixed income securities, and equities have different long-term investment characteristics creating diversification when combined within a single portfolio.

Investing in real estate trusts allows investors to customize their portfolios depending on the fund characteristics, the various real estate sectors, and geographic exposures.

Better yet, REITs listed on securities exchange provide offer liquidity advantages for investors over direct investments in real estate assets. This extends to real estate developers as well since they may not need to completely sell their entire assets if they are seeking some little liquidity.

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With constant returns, REITs are a good source of stable and consistent returns. That is not to mention the taxation benefits such as income tax exemption and stamp duty exemption.

Finally, REITs provide operating transparency mainly because of how they are structured and operated. And because they are regulated by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), they adhere to high standards of corporate governance, financial reporting, and information disclosure.

Challenges of Investing in REITs in Kenya

Despite these upsides, REITs have their fair share of challenges as well. Trustees, the ones holding the real estate assets on behalf of investors, are mainly limited to banks owing to the minimum capital requirements of 100 million shillings.

The approval process can take time particularly to get the necessary documentation and meet all the required regulatory requirements.

Consequently, there is inadequate investor knowledge since these trusts have only been in the Kenyan market for only 8 years. Its popularity has remained low mainly due to inadequate investor awareness or education of real estate trusts hence low investment in the market.

REITs also require a high minimum investment amounts capped at 5 million shillings as per the current regulations. That is 100 times the minimum income of a middle-class person. Investors looking to invest in REITs, therefore, are discouraged from considering it as an investment option.

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Nevertheless, you can still invest in the trust and reap big, as the benefits outweigh the challenges, and here is how:

How to Invest in REITs in Kenya

If you are interested in trading in REITs, you can purchase the trusts’ shares through a broker or directly on the NSE. They are also available on any major exchange markets if you are looking to go international.

You can as well purchase these real estate trusts through a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund.  The Stanlib Fahari I-REIT, for instance, is available for purchase to the public. D-REITs are limited to professionals only.

To buy REITs directly on the NSE, visit your local broker and request to purchase shares of your choice. Buying REITs through a Mutual Fund can be done by investing in a fund that specializes in real estate or has REITs within its portfolio composition.

Determining the Value of REIT Shares

Since the real estate trusts prices are determined by market forces throughout a trading day just like shares, you will need to access if it is a worthwhile investment like analysts typically do.

Ensure there is:

  • Good growth of earnings per share
  • High total returns, that is higher expected price change and a higher prevailing dividend yield
  • Good dividend yield in comparison to other yield-oriented investments such as shares, bonds, and other high-income investments
  • Reasonable payout ratio as a percentage of the REIT FFO (funds from operations)
  • Proper valuation of underlying assets of real estate/mortgage/ and other assets

REITs Market in Kenya

Kenya launched the REITs regulatory framework in 2013, but 8 years down the line, the market has remained underdeveloped with only two I-REIT and one D-REIT.

Fusion Capital launched a D-REIT in 2016 but it failed due to low subscription rates. Similarly, Cytonn Investment’s D-REIT also failed due to conflicts of interest by the prospective bank Trustee.

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Currently, the NSE has three REITs: the ILAM Fahari I-REIT, which started trading in November 2015, the Acorn Student Accommodation I-REIT, and D-REIT launched in February 2021.

Despite these various challenges, the real estate trusts market in Kenya, according to analysts, has the potential for vast growth and can transform the country’s property sector.





About Korir Isaac

A creative, tenacious, and passionate journalist with impeccable ethics and a nose for anticipated and spontaneous news. He may not say it, but he sure can make one hell of a story.

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