Would RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:REI.UN) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Is RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust (TSE:REI.UN) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

In this case, RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust likely looks attractive to investors, given its 5.5% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 2.5% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

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TSX:REI.UN Historical Dividend Yield, August 9th 2019
TSX:REI.UN Historical Dividend Yield, August 9th 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. 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, RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust paid out 77% 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. RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust paid out 112% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. While RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust’s dividends were covered by the company’s reported profits, free cash flow is somewhat more important, so it’s not great to see that the company didn’t generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

REITs like RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust often have different rules governing their distributions, so a higher payout ratio on its own is not unusual.

Is RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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 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. With net debt of 8.84 times its EBITDA, RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we’d be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings downturn.

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 3.96 times its interest expense, RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. 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.

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. RioCan Real Estate Investment 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 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 CA$1.35 in 2009, compared to CA$1.44 last year. Dividend payments have grown at less than 1% a year over this period.

Dividends have grown relatively slowly, which is not great, but some investors may value the relative consistency of the dividend.

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. RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust’s earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation. RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust’s earnings per share have barely grown, which is not ideal – perhaps this is why the company pays out the majority of its earnings to shareholders. When the rate of return on reinvestment opportunities falls below a certain minimum level, companies often elect to pay a larger dividend instead. This is why many mature companies often have larger dividend yields.

Conclusion

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 RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Earnings per share have not been growing, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust out there.

Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust in our latest insider ownership analysis.

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.