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On the property beat

A company that invests in high-yielding property and asset-backed debt and equity investments has announced a NAV per share accretive tender offer well above the market price, while a land developer and housebuilder has released a mixed bag of results.
On the property beat

There are various mechanisms through which companies return capital to their shareholders, but the one I favour most is a tender offer. That’s because distributions made this way enable shareholders to decide whether to realise capital from their holdings, while the process can also enhance net asset value (NAV) per share.

A good example is Alpha Real Trust (ARTL:153p), a company that invests in high-yielding property and asset-backed debt and equity investments. As I noted recently, Alpha delivered a record NAV per share of 216p in the 2021/22 financial year with net cash accounting for £54.3mn of its book value of £133.2mn.

The board are now returning £11.2mn through a tender offer priced at 175p a share, above the market price but below NAV. This means that if all Alpha shareholders participate – the tender equates to 10.3 per cent of the 61.98mn shares in issue – then they benefit from a share sale above the market price while proforma NAV rises to almost 220p per share. It’s a win-win situation. Moreover, in the event that some holders decide not to participate, then those tendering more than their basic allocation will benefit from a larger redemption. That’s exactly what I would suggest doing before the tender deadline of 13 July.


Inland serves up mixed bag

  • First half pre-tax loss of £8.2mn due to losses on housebuilding and partnership homes construction activities
  • Analysts maintain full-year pre-tax profit and earnings per share estimates of £14.4mn and 5.1p, reflecting profits from land sales and asset management activities
  • Net debt reduced from £118mn to £96mn in six-month period

Inland Homes (INL:39p), a south-east England-focused housebuilder and brownfield land developer, has reported a first half loss of £8.2mn on revenue of £80mn, but the board is maintaining full-year profit expectations that point to annual pre-tax profit rising from £13.3mn to £14.4mn.

The first half result was dragged down by £10.9mn of combined pre-tax losses on housebuilding and partnership housing construction activities. A strategic shift to build houses rather than apartments meant that housebuilding revenue dipped from £39mn to £21.9mn on 20 per cent fewer unit sales, leading to a £3.5mn divisional pre-tax loss. A gross profit margin of 6.4 per cent is poor for the sector, a figure north of 20 per cent is the norm.

Partnership homes performed even worse, delivering a pre-tax loss of £7.4mn on revenue of £33.5mn after accounting for an additional £4mn of costs to complete one contract and £1.5mn of credit losses. Post period end, one sub-contractor went into administration, but Inland has a parent company guarantee which it expects to be fulfilled, so no financial provision has been made in the accounts.

The directors have put in place cost control processes to improve returns in both divisions, but Inland is up against market cost inflation pressures and supply chain headwinds. Indeed, the directors expect pricing pressures to impact partnership contract margins through the second half of this year and into 2023.

Fortunately, the group’s land division (pre-tax profit of £3.6mn on revenue of £16.4mn in the first half), and asset management business (£1.8mn of pre-tax profit on revenue of £7.8mn) continue to perform well. Inland’s 9,161-plot land bank is in the South and South East of England, regions in the new homes market that remain strong and are seeing elevated interest from buyers. Proceeds from land sales helped drive down net debt by almost a fifth to £96mn in first half, and the directors are expecting a further £15-20mn reduction in the second half to 30 September 2022.

Inland’s asset management business is also contributing to the debt reduction, generating £10mn of cash in the first half. The unit is managing five projects encompassing 2,600 new homes that are funded by external investors, earning management fees as milestones are met. Over the next 24-36 months, house broker Panmure Gordon expects Inland to receive £39mn of management fees, of which £7-8mn should be collected by the year-end.

Reducing gearing levels is key. Current net borrowings of £96mn equate to 40 per cent of Inland’s EPRA net tangible assets (NTA) of £236mn (103.6p a share), or 55 per cent of IFRS NTA of £174.6mn (76.4p). The realisation of substantial gains on the company’s land bank as it passes through the planning process, and an attractive share price discount to net asset value (NAV), were key bull points when I included Inland’s shares, at 57.75p, in my 2019 Bargain Shares Portfolio. The price subsequently hit a high of 94p in January 2020, in line with the target range (95p to 100p) I outlined (‘Options for bumper profits’, 24 September 2020).

However, Inland’s operational performance has been far from plain sailing since the Covid-19 stock market crash, hence the failure of the share price to recover. Furthermore, the risk now is that the large housebuilding players temper their land buying activity if the UK economic outlook worsens. Not that it is an issue right now, but it would remove a prop from Inland’s profits and debt reduction programme if they do so. A return to profit in Inland’s partnership homes and housebuilding operations may take time, too, another headwind preventing a narrowing of the large share price discount to NAV.

So, having last rated the shares a hold, at 42p (‘A trio of value plays’, 7 April 2022), I am calling time on the holding. Sell.

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