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Is Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. (NASDAQ:GLPI) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll take a closer look at Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. (NASDAQ:GLPI) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

With a five-year payment history and a 6.8% yield, many investors probably find Gaming and Leisure Properties intriguing. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:GLPI Historical Dividend Yield, June 24th 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Gaming and Leisure Properties paid out 114% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Gaming and Leisure Properties paid out 81% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Gaming and Leisure Properties fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.

Is Gaming and Leisure Properties's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Gaming and Leisure Properties's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Gaming and Leisure Properties has net debt of 6.77 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Gaming and Leisure Properties, 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. We're generally reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Gaming and Leisure Properties's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Gaming and Leisure Properties has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$2.08 in 2014, compared to US$2.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 5.5% a year over that time.

Gaming and Leisure Properties has been growing its dividend at a decent rate, and the payments have been stable despite the short payment history. This is a positive start.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. It's good to see Gaming and Leisure Properties has been growing its earnings per share at 64% a year over the past 5 years. The company has been growing its EPS at a very rapid rate, while paying out virtually all of its income as dividends. Generally, a company that is growing rapidly while paying out a majority of its earnings, is seeing its debt burden increase. We'd be conscious of any extra risk added by this practice.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. Ultimately, Gaming and Leisure Properties 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.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 11 analysts we track are forecasting for Gaming and Leisure Properties for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.