Mar 28, 2022
Oil Boom Fuels Rally in Energy-Corridor Housing REIT
(Bloomberg) -- One of Canada’s largest residential real estate stocks has been on a tear, soaring past its pandemic-stricken peers as the oil boom spurs demand in Canada’s energy industry hub.
Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust’s share price has surged 54% in the past year, climbing along with oil and gas prices as economies dropped their pandemic restrictions and Russia invaded Ukraine. The REIT’s climb bucks the trend of other housing stocks, which have underperformed the rest of the sector in the last seven months.
Alberta -- the heart of Canada’s energy sector -- accounts for more than 60% of Boardwalk’s portfolio of properties. As the price of oil climbed in the fourth quarter of last year, Boardwalk’s same-property net operating income jumped 3.5% from the same period a year earlier, driven by growth in the country’s energy corridor in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Until the latest surge, Boardwalk had been among the worst-performing REITs for six of the previous 10 years -- and the biggest loser for three of those years.
“Oil dropped and Boardwalk’s assets in Calgary, Grand Prairie and Edmonton -- you probably couldn’t have given them away,” Starlight Capital Ltd. Chief Executive and Chief Investment Officer Dennis Mitchell said in an interview.
As pandemic restrictions unwind and oil supply tightens, investors expect demand for Boardwalk’s properties in the energy corridor to intensify, he said.
“Boardwalk has come back as oil prices recovered significantly, and there’s the expectation that, given the geopolitical uncertainty, there will be a renewed push for pipelines,” Mitchell said.
Even so, analysts are split on the stock’s outlook, with “hold” the most common recommendation.
After energy companies struggled through years of depressed oil prices, many have shrunk their operations, according to BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne Chen. That means that Boardwalk shouldn’t count on the energy industry to drive sustained housing demand.
“Just because oil rose back to more than $100, that doesn’t mean that energy companies are going to employ 10 times more people to run their businesses when they’ve already structurally changed to be quite lean,” Chen said in an interview.
Chen downgraded the stock to market perform from outperform in December. “Boardwalk has been suffering through it since 2014, and they’ve held up okay. But its run-up has already happened,” Chen said. “Given where valuations were, it went ahead of the curve.”
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