Cohen & Steers' Dividend X-ray
Not all dividends are created equal. Here, we'll do a top-to-bottom analysis of a given company to understand the quality of its dividend and how that's changed over the past five years.
The company we're looking at today is Cohen & Steers (NYS: CNS) , which has a 12-month trailing yield of 6.3%.
Cohen & Steers is an asset manager. Like competitors Federated Investors (NYS: FII) and Legg Mason (NYS: LM) , Cohen & Steers benefited in the first half of the year from the rising market; however, the stock has erased all its gains as the market fell below where it started the year.
To evaluate the quality of a dividend, the first thing to consider is whether the company has paid a dividend consistently over the past five years, and, if so, how much it has grown.
Cohen & Steers has paid a dividend since 2007, but it certainly has been volatile, with a recent substantial special dividend.
To understand how safe a dividend is, we use three crucial tools, the first of which is:
- The interest coverage ratio, or the number of times interest is earned, which is calculated by earnings before interest and taxes, divided by interest expense. The interest coverage ratio measures a company's ability to pay the interest on its debt. A ratio less than 1.5 is questionable; a number less than 1 means the company is not bringing in enough money to cover its interest expenses.
Cohen & Steers has no debt and as such has no interest to cover.
The other tools we use to evaluate the safety of a dividend are:
- The EPS payout ratio, or dividends per share divided by earnings per share. The EPS payout ratio measures the percentage of earnings that go toward paying the dividend. A ratio greater than 80% is worrisome.
- The FCF payout ratio, or dividends per share divided by free cash flow per share. Earnings alone don't always paint a complete picture of a business's health. The FCF payout ratio measures the percent of free cash flow devoted toward paying the dividend. Again, a ratio greater than 80% could be a red flag.
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Excludes special dividend of $1 paid in Sept. 2011.
Cohen & Steers' payout ratio has been all over the place, though in the past year it's leveled out right below 50%.
Another tool for better investing
Most investors don't keep tabs on their companies. That's a mistake. If you take the time to read past the headlines and crack a filing now and then, you're in a much better position to spot potential trouble early. We can help you keep tabs on your companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock-tracking service.
- Add Cohen & Steers to My Watchlist.
At the time this article was published