Is CoreCivic, Inc. (NYSE:CXW) At Risk Of Cutting Its Dividend?

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Is CoreCivic, Inc. (NYSE:CXW) a good dividend stock? How would you know? 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.

With a seven-year payment history and a 7.7% yield, many investors probably find CoreCivic intriguing. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding CoreCivic for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on CoreCivic!

NYSE:CXW Historical Dividend Yield, June 10th 2019
NYSE:CXW Historical Dividend Yield, June 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. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 74% of CoreCivic’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. CoreCivic paid out 70% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. 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.

Is CoreCivic’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As CoreCivic has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick way to check a company’s financial situation uses these 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 on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. CoreCivic is carrying net debt of 4.19 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.

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 3.30 times its interest expense, CoreCivic’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

Consider getting our latest analysis on CoreCivic’s financial position 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. Looking at the data, we can see that CoreCivic has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we’re cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.80 in 2012, compared to US$1.76 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 12% per year over this time. CoreCivic’s dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn’t grown 12% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there’s a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Over the past five years, it looks as though CoreCivic’s EPS have declined at around 12% a year. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company’s dividend.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that CoreCivic’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. CoreCivic’s is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall, CoreCivic falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on CoreCivic management tenure, salary, and performance.

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.