U.S. Markets closed

Here's Why We're Wary Of Buying Alexander's, Inc.'s (NYSE:ALX) For Its Upcoming Dividend

Simply Wall St

It looks like Alexander's, Inc. (NYSE:ALX) is about to go ex-dividend in the next 3 days. Investors can purchase shares before the 2nd of August in order to be eligible for this dividend, which will be paid on the 16th of August.

Alexander's's upcoming dividend is US$4.50 a share, following on from the last 12 months, when the company distributed a total of US$18.00 per share to shareholders. Last year's total dividend payments show that Alexander's has a trailing yield of 4.8% on the current share price of $375.5. Dividends are an important source of income to many shareholders, but the health of the business is crucial to maintaining those dividends. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.

Check out our latest analysis for Alexander's

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. It paid out 93% of its earnings as dividends last year, which is not unreasonable, but limits reinvestment in the business and leaves the dividend vulnerable to a business downturn. It could become a concern if earnings started to decline. While Alexander's seems to be paying out a very high percentage of its income, REITs have different dividend payment behaviour and so, while we don't think this is great, we also don't think it is unusual. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. The company paid out 109% of its free cash flow over the last year, which we think is outside the ideal range for most businesses. Companies usually need cash more than they need earnings - expenses don't pay themselves - so it's not great to see it paying out so much of its cash flow.

While Alexander's's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, cash is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Alexander's to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Click here to see how much of its profit Alexander's paid out over the last 12 months.

NYSE:ALX Historical Dividend Yield, July 29th 2019

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Companies that aren't growing their earnings can still be valuable, but it is even more important to assess the sustainability of the dividend if it looks like the company will struggle to grow. If business enters a downturn and the dividend is cut, the company could see its value fall precipitously. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that Alexander's's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. Better than seeing them fall off a cliff, for sure, but the best dividend stocks grow their earnings meaningfully over the long run. Earnings have been growing somewhat, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.

Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the past 9 years, Alexander's has increased its dividend at approximately 6.7% a year on average.

Final Takeaway

From a dividend perspective, should investors buy or avoid Alexander's? In addition to earnings being flat, Alexander's is paying out a reasonable percentage of its earnings as profits. However, the dividend was not well covered by free cash flow. With the way things are shaping up from a dividend perspective, we'd be inclined to steer clear of Alexander's.

Want to learn more about Alexander's's dividend performance? Check out this visualisation of its historical revenue and earnings growth.

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.