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Public Storage stock: Buy or a sell?


Ross Smotrich, Barclays Capital

FORTUNE — The bull: Ross Smotrich, Barclays Capital “Self-storage companies can be an interesting play in a recovery. Consumer spending is starting to rise, and the storage space benefits from folks moving to new houses or jobs. The sector is incredibly fragmented, and Public Storage (PSA), with a 5% market share, is the biggest player. That gives it the ability to increase prices and still grow. It’s also a very liquid company, with little debt and a lot of cash on the books. We predict the company will generate over $325 million in free cash flow for 2012. That cash funds acquisitions. The REIT also offers a 3.1% dividend yield, so investors will get some of the cash back. At $140 a share, Public Storage trades at a slight discount to its peers, but we think it should command a premium. We have a price target of $164.”

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Michael Salinsky, RBC Capital Markets

The bear: Michael Salinsky, RBC Capital Markets “Public Storage has a very high occupancy level, meaning locker rentals have nearly reached capacity. While that’s great for current revenue, it leaves little room for growth. One reason for the limited growth is Public Storage’s lack of acquisition activity compared with more aggressive peers like Extra Space Storage (EXR). Public Storage is on pace to complete just $250 million of acquisitions this year. That’s 1% of enterprise value, so it does little to move the bar. We expect greater pressure on real estate taxes and advertising costs in 2013, causing expenses to jump by over 2%. And our revenue growth estimate of 5.2% for Public Storage next year is lower than the sector’s 5.6% average.

This story is from the December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune