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Should Apartment Investment and Management Company (NYSE:AIV) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Apartment Investment and Management Company (NYSE:AIV) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A slim 2.9% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Apartment Investment and Management could have potential. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 4.7% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Apartment Investment and Management for its dividend - read on to learn more.

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NYSE:AIV Historical Dividend Yield, November 9th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Apartment Investment and Management paid out 50% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Unfortunately, while Apartment Investment and Management pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

REITs like Apartment Investment and Management often have different rules governing their distributions, so a higher payout ratio on its own is not unusual.

Is Apartment Investment and Management's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Apartment Investment and Management has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 7.52 times its EBITDA, Apartment Investment and Management could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we'd be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 1.10 times its interest expense, Apartment Investment and Management's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company's dividend while these metrics persist. That said, Apartment Investment and Management is in the real estate business, which is typically able to sustain much higher levels of debt, relative to other industries.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Apartment Investment and Management's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. Apartment Investment and Management has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$2.47 in 2009, compared to US$1.56 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 4.5% per year over that time. Apartment Investment and Management's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 4.5% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Apartment Investment and Management for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Apartment Investment and Management has grown its earnings per share at 273% per annum over the past five years. With recent, rapid earnings per share growth and a payout ratio of 50%, this business looks like an interesting prospect if earnings are reinvested effectively.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Apartment Investment and Management's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Apartment Investment and Management gets a pass on its dividend payout ratio, but it paid out virtually all of its cash flow as dividends. This may just be a one-off, but we'd keep an eye on this. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Apartment Investment and Management from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 14 Apartment Investment and Management analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.