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Universal Health Realty Income Trust (NYSE:UHT) Is Yielding 3.1% - But Is It A Buy?

Simply Wall St

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Could Universal Health Realty Income Trust (NYSE:UHT) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

In this case, Universal Health Realty Income Trust likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.1% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Universal Health Realty Income Trust for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Universal Health Realty Income Trust!

NYSE:UHT Historical Dividend Yield, July 16th 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. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 104% of Universal Health Realty Income Trust's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Universal Health Realty Income Trust paid out 113% of its free cash last year. Cash flows can be lumpy, but this dividend was not well covered by cash flow. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Universal Health Realty Income Trust's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

REITs like Universal Health Realty Income Trust often have different rules governing their distributions, so a higher payout ratio on its own is not unusual.

Is Universal Health Realty Income Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Universal Health Realty Income 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 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 4.78 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.84 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Universal Health Realty Income Trust, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

We update our data on Universal Health Realty Income Trust every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Universal Health Realty Income 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. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$2.34 in 2009, compared to US$2.70 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 1.4% per year over this time.

Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think is seriously impressive.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Universal Health Realty Income Trust has grown its earnings per share at 5.7% per annum over the past five years. Although per-share earnings are growing at a credible rate, virtually all of the income is being paid out as dividends to shareholders. This is okay, but may limit growth in the company's future dividend payments.

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. Universal Health Realty Income Trust paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. With this information in mind, we think Universal Health Realty Income Trust may not be an ideal dividend stock.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Universal Health Realty Income Trust stock.

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 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.