Today we'll take a closer look at Dexus (ASX:DXS) 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 the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Dexus. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.
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. Dexus paid out 71% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Dexus 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's positive to see that Dexus'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.
Dexus is a REIT, which is an investment structure that often has different payout rules compared to other companies. It is not uncommon for REITs to pay out 100% of their earnings each year.
Is Dexus's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Dexus 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 is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Dexus is carrying net debt of 3.33 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Net interest cover of 8.05 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Dexus, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Dexus's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. Dexus has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.72 in 2009, compared to AU$0.51 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 3.3% a year during that period. Dexus's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 3.3% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.
A shrinking dividend over a ten-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? It's good to see Dexus has been growing its earnings per share at 17% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly, but given that it is paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, we wonder how Dexus will keep funding its growth projects in the future.
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 Dexus is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Second, earnings per share have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Dexus from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 4 analysts we track are forecasting for Dexus for free with public analyst estimates 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.