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Should CapitaLand Mall Trust (SGX:C38U) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Is CapitaLand Mall Trust (SGX:C38U) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

In this case, CapitaLand Mall Trust likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.4% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding CapitaLand Mall Trust for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on CapitaLand Mall Trust!

SGX:C38U Historical Dividend Yield, June 16th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. CapitaLand Mall Trust paid out 84% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. It's paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. The company paid out 84% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is adequate, but reduces the wriggle room in the event of a downturn. 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.

Is CapitaLand Mall Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As CapitaLand Mall Trust has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick way to check a company's financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company's total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company's ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of more than 5x EBITDA, CapitaLand Mall Trust 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 4.93 times its interest expense, CapitaLand Mall Trust's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them. We're generally reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.

Consider getting our latest analysis on CapitaLand Mall Trust'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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of CapitaLand Mall Trust's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was S$0.085 in 2009, compared to S$0.12 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 3.0% a year over that time.

Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think is seriously impressive.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. CapitaLand Mall Trust has grown its earnings per share at 2.9% per annum over the past five years. There are exceptions, but limited earnings growth and a high payout ratio can signal that a company is struggling to grow. When a company prefers to pay out cash to its shareholders instead of reinvesting it, this can often say a lot about that company's dividend prospects.

We'd also point out that CapitaLand Mall Trust issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. CapitaLand Mall Trust's is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than CapitaLand Mall Trust out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 19 CapitaLand Mall Trust 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.