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What To Know Before Buying CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust, Inc. (NYSE:CORR) For Its Dividend

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Is CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust, Inc. (NYSE:CORR) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

With CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust yielding 7.3% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:CORR Historical Dividend Yield, August 6th 2019
NYSE:CORR Historical Dividend Yield, August 6th 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. CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust paid out 103% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust paid out 82% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. It's good to see that while CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

CorEnergy Infrastructure 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 CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust'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. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust has net debt of 0.66 times its EBITDA, which we think is not too troublesome.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 4.29 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of CorEnergy Infrastructure 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. CorEnergy Infrastructure 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. 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$5.30 in 2009, compared to US$3.00 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 5.5% per year over that time. CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 5.5% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

We struggle to make a case for buying CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust has grown its earnings per share at 23% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing very rapidly, although the company is also paying out virtually all of its profit in 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

To summarise, shareholders should always check that CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. 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. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust out there.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in CorEnergy Infrastructure Trust stock.

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.