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Do Investors Have Good Reason To Be Wary Of Cedar Realty Trust, Inc.'s (NYSE:CDR) 7.9% Dividend Yield?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll take a closer look at Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE:CDR) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Cedar Realty Trust. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 4.2% of market capitalisation this year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Cedar Realty Trust for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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NYSE:CDR Historical Dividend Yield, July 15th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 61% of Cedar Realty Trust's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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. Cedar Realty Trust paid out 51% 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 Cedar Realty 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.

Cedar Realty Trust 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 Cedar Realty Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Cedar Realty 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 7.65 times its EBITDA, Cedar Realty 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 2.02 times its interest expense, Cedar Realty 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.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Cedar Realty Trust's financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Cedar Realty Trust's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.90 in 2009, compared to US$0.20 last year. The dividend has fallen 78% over that period.

When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either the business or management. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. Over the past five years, it looks as though Cedar Realty Trust's EPS have declined at around 19% a year. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Cedar Realty Trust's is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. In summary, Cedar Realty Trust has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are likely more attractive alternatives out there.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 3 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

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.