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Don't Buy Colony Capital, Inc. (NYSE:CLNY) For Its Next Dividend Without Doing These Checks

Simply Wall St

Regular readers will know that we love our dividends at Simply Wall St, which is why it's exciting to see Colony Capital, Inc. (NYSE:CLNY) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 4 days. Investors can purchase shares before the 27th of September in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 15th of October.

Colony Capital's next dividend payment will be US$0.1 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$0.4 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, Colony Capital stock has a trailing yield of around 7.7% on the current share price of $5.7. We love seeing companies pay a dividend, but it's also important to be sure that laying the golden eggs isn't going to kill our golden goose! So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.

View our latest analysis for Colony Capital

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Colony Capital reported a loss after tax last year, which means it's paying a dividend despite being unprofitable. While this might be a one-off event, this is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. That said, REITs are often required by law to distribute all of their earnings, and it's not unusual to see a REIT with a payout ratio around 100%. We wouldn't read too much into this. With the recent loss, it's important to check if the business generated enough cash to pay its dividend. If cash earnings don't cover the dividend, the company would have to pay dividends out of cash in the bank, or by borrowing money, neither of which is long-term sustainable. Dividends consumed 75% of the company's free cash flow last year, which is within a normal range for most dividend-paying organisations.

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

NYSE:CLNY Historical Dividend Yield, September 22nd 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. Colony Capital was unprofitable last year and, unfortunately, the general trend suggests its earnings have been in decline over the last five years, making us wonder if the dividend is sustainable at all.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. Colony Capital has seen its dividend decline 26% per annum on average over the past three years, which is not great to see. While it's not great that earnings and dividends per share have fallen in recent years, we're encouraged by the fact that management has trimmed the dividend rather than risk over-committing the company in a risky attempt to maintain yields to shareholders.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Colony Capital's financial health, by checking our visualisation of its financial health, here.

To Sum It Up

Is Colony Capital an attractive dividend stock, or better left on the shelf? We're a bit uncomfortable with it paying a dividend while being loss-making. However, we note that the dividend was covered by cash flow. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

Wondering what the future holds for Colony Capital? See what the two analysts we track are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow

If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top 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.