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Is Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:CUF.UN) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

Is Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:CUF.UN) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

TSX:CUF.UN Historical Dividend Yield, October 9th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. While Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business - which could be good or bad.

Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust paid out 66% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business.

It is worth considering that Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). REITs have different rules governing their payments, and are often required to pay out a high portion of their earnings to investors.

Is Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Cominar Real Estate Investment 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 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). Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust has net debt of 10.14 times its EBITDA, which we think carries substantial risk if earnings aren't sustainable.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.36 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them, and we're reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits. That said, Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust is in the real estate business, which is typically able to sustain much higher levels of debt, relative to other industries.

We update our data on Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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 Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust's dividend payments. While its dividends have not been hugely volatile, its most recent dividend is still meaningfully below where it was ten years ago. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$1.44 in 2009, compared to CA$0.72 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 6.7% per year over that time.

When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust's EPS have declined at around 53% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Moreover, earnings have been shrinking. While the dividends have been fairly steady, we'd wonder for how much longer this will be sustainable if earnings continue to decline. Ultimately, Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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.