Readers hoping to buy American Assets Trust, Inc. (NYSE:AAT) for its dividend will need to make their move shortly, as the stock is about to trade ex-dividend. You will need to purchase shares before the 11th of September to receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 26th of September.
American Assets Trust's next dividend payment will be US$0.28 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$1.12 to shareholders. Based on the last year's worth of payments, American Assets Trust stock has a trailing yield of around 2.4% on the current share price of $47.53. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.
Dividends are usually paid out of company profits, so if a company pays out more than it earned then its dividend is usually at greater risk of being cut. That's why it's good to see American Assets Trust paying out a modest 26% of its earnings. That said, REITs are often required by law to distribute all of their earnings, and it's not unusual to see a REIT with a payout ratio around 100%. We wouldn't read too much into this. 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. Over the past year it paid out 125% of its free cash flow as dividends, which is uncomfortably high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.
American Assets Trust paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough cash to cover the dividend. Were this to happen repeatedly, this would be a risk to American Assets Trust's ability to maintain its dividend.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Businesses with strong growth prospects usually make the best dividend payers, because it's easier to grow dividends when earnings per share are improving. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. Fortunately for readers, American Assets Trust's earnings per share have been growing at 15% a year for the past five years. Earnings have been growing at a decent rate, but we're concerned dividend payments consumed most of the company's cash flow over the past year.
We'd also point out that American Assets Trust issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. It's hard to grow dividends per share when a company keeps creating new shares.
Another key way to measure a company's dividend prospects is by measuring its historical rate of dividend growth. American Assets Trust has delivered an average of 3.2% per year annual increase in its dividend, based on the past 9 years of dividend payments. It's good to see both earnings and the dividend have improved - although the former has been rising much quicker than the latter, possibly due to the company reinvesting more of its profits in growth.
Is American Assets Trust worth buying for its dividend? We like that American Assets Trust has been successfully growing its earnings per share at a nice rate and reinvesting most of its profits in the business. However, we note the high cashflow payout ratio with some concern. In summary, it's hard to get excited about American Assets Trust from a dividend perspective.
Curious what other investors think of American Assets Trust? See what analysts are forecasting, with this visualisation of its historical and future estimated earnings and cash flow .
A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
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