Today we’ll take a closer look at Universal Health Realty Income Trust (NYSE:UHT) 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. 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 slim 2.9% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Universal Health Realty Income Trust could have potential. 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 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. 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. In the last year, Universal Health Realty Income Trust paid out 85% of its profit as dividends. It’s paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.
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 90% 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 Universal Health Realty Income 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.
Universal Health Realty Income 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 Universal Health Realty Income Trust’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Universal Health Realty Income 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 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. Universal Health Realty Income Trust is carrying net debt of 4.65 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.61 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.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Universal Health Realty Income Trust’s dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$2.34 in 2009, compared to US$2.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 1.5% a year over that 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
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend’s purchasing power over the long term. Earnings have grown at around 3.9% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! There are exceptions, but limited earnings growth and a high payout ratio can signal that a company is struggling to grow. That’s fine as far as it goes, but we’re less enthusiastic as this often signals that the dividend is likely to grow slower in the future.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. First, we think Universal Health Realty Income Trust is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. It hasn’t demonstrated a strong ability to grow earnings per share, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Universal Health Realty Income 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.
See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Universal Health Realty Income Trust stock.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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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.