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Would Weingarten Realty Investors (NYSE:WRI) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

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Is Weingarten Realty Investors (NYSE:WRI) 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 stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Weingarten Realty Investors. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Weingarten Realty Investors!

NYSE:WRI Historical Dividend Yield, July 17th 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. Weingarten Realty Investors paid out 68% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Weingarten Realty Investors paid out 72% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

REITs like Weingarten Realty Investors often have different rules governing their distributions, so a higher payout ratio on its own is not unusual.

Is Weingarten Realty Investors's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Weingarten Realty Investors has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with 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. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Weingarten Realty Investors has net debt of 5.39 times its 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. With EBIT of 2.82 times its interest expense, Weingarten Realty Investors'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 Weingarten Realty Investors'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. Weingarten Realty Investors 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 cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$2.10 in 2009, compared to US$1.58 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 2.8% per year over that time. Weingarten Realty Investors's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 2.8% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Weingarten Realty Investors for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. It's good to see Weingarten Realty Investors has been growing its earnings per share at 33% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share are sharply up, but we wonder if paying out more than half its earnings (leaving less for reinvestment) is an implicit signal that Weingarten Realty Investors's growth will be slower in the future.

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. First, we think Weingarten Realty Investors is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Weingarten Realty Investors 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 4 analysts we track are forecasting for Weingarten Realty Investors for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.