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The Nasdaq has long been home to some of the leading icons of go-go growth in the technology age, including companies like Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft, and Amazon.

It’s not typically the place to shop for real estate investment trusts (REITs), those pools of income-producing properties managed more for dividends than for growth. In fact, of the approximately 225 publicly traded REITs, only 33 trade on the Nasdaq, and most have badly trailed the Nasdaq itself in total returns.

A notable exception is Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), which has made its fortune, and done the same for a lot of investors, mostly because of how closely it’s tied to tech.

Equinix is one of the largest data-center operators in the world, with 250 sites on six continents that provide storage space and critical connectivity to more than 10,000 customers, including about half of the Fortune 500.

Just a few of its major tenants are cloud giants such as Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure, as well as broadband streaming leaders like Zoom Video Communications and Netflix.

Meeting this insatiable demand for data bandwidth and digital storage space has helped Equinix perform admirably. The chart below shows how much a $1,000 stake in Equinix has gained in the past 10 years ago compared with the same amount invested in the benchmark Invesco QQQ exchange-traded fund (ETF), which tracks the NASDAQ 100 Index of the 100 largest U.S. and international nonfinancial companies based on market cap.

Data source: YCharts

As the chart shows, Equinix has posted 524% in total return versus 403% for the ETF. Interestingly, push the performance back to when Equinix went public in 2000, shortly after QQQ’s launch in 1999, and the picture is dramatically reversed, as shown below.

Data source: YCharts

REIT conversion opens the cash drawer

At least two factors help explain this reversal. First, Equinix converted to a REIT in 2015 and was required at that point to pay out at least 90% of its taxable income as dividends, significantly boosting that side of the total return formula.

In fact, the data-center giant has raised its payout by 150% since then, including by an annualized 8% a year during the past three. Its payout ratio of about 50% based on cash flow is modest by REIT standards, leaving cash in the coffers to manage debt and expand its operations.

The stock’s yield is only about 2%, but that’s still considerably higher than the 0.6% of the Invesco QQQ benchmark, which reflects just how little in dividends one can generally expect from the big tech sector.

A REIT to ride the digital revolution

The other reason for Equinix’s recent Nasdaq-beating ride may be more significant. The company has ridden, indeed helped facilitate, the wave of explosive growth over the past decade or so as big data, cloud computing, and the internet of things have transformed our daily lives and the global economy.

Along with its ability to adapt its own infrastructure to accommodate the needs of tenants dependent on its space and services, Equinix has also expanded its global footprint, adding geographic diversity to its steady revenue flow from an expanding list of reliable rent payers.

Combine that with experienced management focused on raising the dividend and expanding the business’s operations, and Equinix should be well positioned to continue its role as an integral part of the worldwide digital ecosystem.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Marc Rapport has positions in Alphabet and Amazon. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Alphabet, Amazon, Equinix, Microsoft, Netflix, and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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