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Do These 3 Checks Before Buying Digital Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE:DLR) For Its Upcoming Dividend

Simply Wall St

Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Digital Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE:DLR) is about to go ex-dividend in just 4 days. If you purchase the stock on or after the 12th of September, you won't be eligible to receive this dividend, when it is paid on the 30th of September.

Digital Realty Trust's next dividend payment will be US$1.08 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$4.32 to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Digital Realty Trust has a trailing yield of 3.4% on the current share price of $128.62. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. That's why we should always check whether the dividend payments appear sustainable, and if the company is growing.

See our latest analysis for Digital Realty Trust

Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. Digital Realty Trust is paying out an acceptable 69% of its profit, a common payout level among most companies. While Digital Realty Trust seems to be paying out a very high percentage of its income, REITs have different dividend payment behaviour and so, while we don't think this is great, we also don't think it is unusual. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Dividends consumed 64% of the company's free cash flow last year, which is within a normal range for most dividend-paying organisations.

It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Click here to see the company's payout ratio, plus analyst estimates of its future dividends.

NYSE:DLR Historical Dividend Yield, September 7th 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

When earnings decline, dividend companies become much harder to analyse and own safely. If earnings decline and the company is forced to cut its dividend, investors could watch the value of their investment go up in smoke. Digital Realty Trust's earnings per share have fallen at approximately 12% a year over the previous 5 years. Ultimately, when earnings per share decline, the size of the pie from which dividends can be paid, shrinks.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. In the last 10 years, Digital Realty Trust has lifted its dividend by approximately 13% a year on average. That's interesting, but the combination of a growing dividend despite declining earnings can typically only be achieved by paying out more of the company's profits. This can be valuable for shareholders, but it can't go on forever.

To Sum It Up

Has Digital Realty Trust got what it takes to maintain its dividend payments? While earnings per share are shrinking, it's encouraging to see that at least Digital Realty Trust's dividend appears sustainable, with earnings and cashflow payout ratios that are within reasonable bounds. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

Curious what other investors think of Digital Realty Trust? See what analysts are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow .

A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.