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Investors Real Estate Trust (NYSE:IRET) Investors Should Think About This Before Buying It For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Investors Real Estate Trust ( NYSE:IRET ) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Investors Real Estate Trust. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 1.3% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Investors Real Estate Trust!

NYSE:IRET Historical Dividend Yield, July 10th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. While Investors Real Estate Trust pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business - which could be good or bad.

Investors Real Estate Trust's cash payout ratio in the last year was 50%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business.

Investors Real Estate 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 Investors Real Estate Trust's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Investors Real Estate 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 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 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). Investors Real Estate Trust has net debt of 7.54 times its EBITDA, which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of less than 1 times its interest expense, Investors Real Estate Trust's financial situation is potentially quite concerning. Readers should investigate whether it might be at risk of breaching the minimum requirements on its loans. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company's dividend while these metrics persist.

We update our data on Investors Real Estate Trust every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

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. Investors Real Estate 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. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$6.76 in 2009, compared to US$2.80 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 8.4% a year during that period.

When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either the business or management. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. In the last five years, Investors Real Estate Trust's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 20% per annum. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

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. Investors Real Estate Trust's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Earnings per share are down, and Investors Real Estate Trust's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Ultimately, Investors Real Estate Trust comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting 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 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.