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Today we'll take a closer look at Physicians Realty Trust (NYSE:DOC) 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. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
With a six-year payment history and a 5.1% yield, many investors probably find Physicians Realty Trust intriguing. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. 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 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. In the last year, Physicians Realty Trust paid out 84% of its profit as dividends. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Physicians Realty Trust paid out 81% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. It's positive to see that Physicians 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.
Is Physicians Realty Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Physicians 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 quick way to check a company's financial situation uses these 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 on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Physicians Realty Trust has net debt of 5.59 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Physicians Realty Trust, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them. We're generally reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.
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. Looking at the data, we can see that Physicians Realty Trust has been paying a dividend for the past six years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we'd prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.90 in 2013, compared to US$0.92 last year. Dividend payments have grown at less than 1% a year over this period.
It's good to see at least some dividend growth. Yet with a relatively short dividend paying history, we wouldn't want to depend on this dividend too heavily.
Dividend Growth Potential
Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It's good to see Physicians Realty Trust has been growing its earnings per share at 51% a year over the past 5 years. Physicians Realty Trust earnings have been growing very quickly recently, but given that it is paying out more than half of its earnings, we wonder if it will have enough capital to fund further growth in the future.
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. First, we think Physicians Realty Trust is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Physicians Realty Trust 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 8 analysts we track are forecasting for Physicians Realty Trust 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 email@example.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.