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Why this well-loved ASX 200 property stock is tumbling today

Brendon Lau

The property market may be regaining favour but this positive sentiment isn’t applying to the GPT Group (ASX: GPT) share price this morning as it fell after the property group posted a halving in interim net profit and an increase in its dividend.

The GPT share price lost 2.2% to $6.12 while the S&P/ASX 200 (Index:^AXJO) (ASX:XJO) index dipped less than 0.1% at the time of writing.

GPT isn’t the only one in the property sector to lose ground but it’s one of the biggest laggards today as the Stockland Corporation Ltd (ASX: SGP) share price slipping 0.7% to $4.57 and Mirvac Group (ASX: MGR) share price giving up 1.4% to $3.25.  

Big profit plunge not the issue

GPT posted a 51.5% plunge in first half net profit to $352.6 million even as funds from operations (FFO) inched up 2.2% to $295.9 million.

Management also declared a 4% increase in distribution to 13.11 cents per security and is forecasting similar growth in its final dividend on the back of a 2.5% increase in FFO per security for 2019.

The big profit drop was due to a significantly smaller increase in property valuations and large marked-to-market losses on Treasury instruments.

Investors will be eyeing FFO more closely as that better reflects operating performance. On that front, strength in the office property market that also lifted the fortunes of fellow property developer Mirvac Group is the highlight for GPT.

The good, bad and not so pretty

The group’s office portfolio recorded a 6.5% jump in like-for-like (LFL) income over the same time last year as office occupancy came in at 97.1%.

It’s logistics portfolio of industrial properties recorded a 2.2% increase in LFL income for the period as valuation on the portfolio increased 2.7% to $51.4 million.

Both office and industrial properties have performed well over the past year due to strong demand and limited supply of office space in Melbourne and Sydney, while the on-line retail revolution is driving the growth in warehousing.

The Achilles heel is retail as the drop in foot traffic at many shopping malls is dragging on the outlook for this segment. At least GPT’s retail division still managed to deliver a LFL sales growth of 1.4%.

The problem is the lack of positive catalysts for GPT that I believe is contributing to today’s sell-off. The big valuation uplift cycle is probably over and after the stock’s 16% gain, which is more than 10 percentage points ahead of the ASX 200, its valuation and yield is looking a little stretched.

GPT is sitting on a 2019 yield of around 4.5% and it doesn’t pay franking. That in itself may not seem so bad, especially with management forecasting 4% distribution growth for the year and with interest rates heading towards zero, but there are better dividend options on the market.

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Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Connect with him on Twitter @brenlau.

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool's free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. 2019