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Why Should You Add Essex Property (ESS) to Your Portfolio?

We updated our research report on Essex Property Trust, Inc. ESS on Apr 12, 2016.

This residential real estate investment trust (REIT) enjoys a solid property base and a strong management team. Importantly, the company’s merger with BRE Properties in 2014 led to the creation of a premium West Coast pure-play multifamily REIT.

In fact, backed by its portfolio and strong team, Essex Property is believed to have the capability to efficiently leverage the attractive market fundamentals. In the West Coast, job growth continues to propel demand for new units. Amid manageable deliveries of new housing in the market, this demand is helping rental rates to climb.

On the earnings front, Essex Property came up with fourth-quarter 2015 core funds from operations (“FFO”) of $2.63 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.55. Core FFO per share also increased 17.4% from the year-ago quarter figure of $2.24. Results were driven by solid growth in net operating income.

Further, the company maintains a solid balance sheet and enjoys financial flexibility. Notably, it achieved a debt-to-total market capitalization ratio of 24.6% at year-end 2015, representing the lowest level since 2007. Moreover, as of Jan 31, 2016, the company had over $800 million in undrawn capacity on its unsecured credit facilities.

The company also has a 21-year history of increasing cash dividend, which is encouraging. In fact, cheering its shareholders, Essex Property declared an 11.1% hike in its annual dividend rate. The company would now pay an annual dividend of $6.40 per share, marking an increase of $0.64 per share from the prior rate.

Finally, this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock is slated to release its first-quarter 2016 results after the market closes on Apr 28. Currently, the first-quarter FFO per share estimate is pegged at $2.62, representing a year-over-year increase of 14.45%.

Investors interested in the residential REIT industry may consider better-ranked stocks like Camden Property Trust CPT, Colony Starwood Homes SFR and Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc. MAA. All these stocks carry the same rank as Essex Property.

Note: FFO, a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs, is obtained after adding depreciation and amortization and other non-cash expenses to net income.

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MID-AMER APT CM (MAA): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CAMDEN PPTY TR (CPT): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
ESSEX PPTY TR (ESS): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
COLONY STARWOOD (SFR): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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