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Here's How We Evaluate Artis Real Estate Investment Trust's (TSE:AX.UN) Dividend

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Artis Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:AX.UN) 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.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Artis Real Estate Investment Trust. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 7.9% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. 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

TSX:AX.UN Historical Dividend Yield, August 26th 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. Artis Real Estate Investment Trust paid out 68% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Artis Real Estate Investment Trust paid out 61% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. It's positive to see that Artis Real Estate Investment Trust's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

It is worth considering that Artis 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 Artis Real Estate Investment Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Artis 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 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 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 8.81 times its EBITDA, Artis Real Estate Investment 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.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 2.45 times its interest expense, Artis Real Estate Investment 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, and we're reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Artis Real Estate Investment Trust's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. Artis Real Estate Investment Trust has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of 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$1.08 in 2009, compared to CA$0.54 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 6.7% a year during that period.

We struggle to make a case for buying Artis Real Estate Investment Trust for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Artis Real Estate Investment Trust's earnings per share have shrunk at 24% a year over the past five years. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.

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. First, we think Artis Real Estate Investment Trust is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Earnings per share have not been growing, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Artis Real Estate Investment Trust out there.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 3 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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.