Sovran: A Place for Your Stuff

07/27/2015 8:00 am EST

Focus: REITS

Jimmy Mengel

Editor, Outsider Club

Just as George Carlin used to joke, people love their “stuff” so much, they need to find even more places just  to stash their stuff, quips Jimmy Mengel, editor of The Crow’s Nest.

Self-storage is hardly an exciting topic. Own some land, build a row of garages, put locks on them, and rent them out. That’s the whole plan.

This simple system is the bedrock for a strong dividend play available to us right now. Sovran Self Storage (SSS) opened up its first facility back in 1985 in Buffalo, New York.

Since then, it has expanded to own or operate over 500 self storage facilities encompassing over 30 million square feet, making it one of the largest self-storage companies in the United States.

In total, the company serves 250,000 storage customers in 25 states.

A vast majority of the locations are east of the Mississippi, though facilities are also in Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona.

Sovran may not be a recognizable name because the company operates under the trade name Uncle Bob’s Storage.

The company has had success marketing itself with a well-integrated data center and booking system, along with value-added services like Dri-guard—a dehumidification system—rental trucks, and surveillance systems.

As a company that is essentially devoted to rental income from investments in property, Sovran is eligible to be treated as a REIT for federal income tax purposes.

In this sense, the entire point of the company is to continuously expand and return greater income to its investors. That would be us.

What sets Sovran apart from the others in the industry—and warrants a recommendation over them—are its occupancy levels and asking rates.

The company’s facilities hit an all time high for occupancy and the asking rate for unit rent has climbed 25% over the last three years.

Overall occupancy rates averaged 89.3% in the first quarter of 2015, while rental rates averaged $12.12 per sq ft.

It has just lifted its quarterly dividend by 13% to $0.85 per share. It is now yielding a very nice 3.7%.

With funds from operations, revenue, and other key metrics improving at a strong rate, we can expect strong dividend growth to continue for the foreseeable future.

Sovran Storage has one more key aspect that warrants investor attention. Through its dividend reinvestment program, or DRIP, it directly sells shares to investors at a 2% discount.

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