Should We Sell This 5.6% Payer or Let a 105% Winner Run?

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By Brett Owens

aEURoeHey Brett aEUR" is it time for us to sell MPW?aEUR

Nothing makes subscribers more anxious to bank gains like a 105% winner! ThataEURtms what Medical Properties Trust ( MPW ) has delivered to us since we bought it in November 2015. Funny thing is, IaEURtmve been getting questions about selling the stock since it was a mere double-digit gain for us. ItaEURtms a good thing we let this winner run!

Why We Let Our Winners Run

ItaEURtms especially important to let winners run when they are growing their dividend consistently. ThereaEURtms rarely any reason to actually sell a stock if the company is consistently growing its profits and dishing them to shareholders.

Remember, there are three ways a stock can pay us:

  1. With a dividend today ,
  2. By repurchasing its own shares (to make each remaining one intrinsically more valuable, because buybacks increase earnings per share), and/or
  3. By boosting its payout tomorrow so that its stock price follows its dividend higher.

My Hidden Yields formula is dedicated to the third aEUR" and most lucrative aEUR" strategy. ItaEURtms helped us to 14.2% annualized returns since our August 2015 inception. Our 105% gains on MPW show how effective this strategy can be when applied to a stock that already pays a lot!

Back to our initial question, is it time to sell? LetaEURtms walk through my five aEURoeprofit bookingaEUR signals for a perennial payout hiker.

Time to Sell Signal #1: Slowing Dividend Growth

If a dividend grower isnaEURtmt growing its payout fast enough, then it might be time to move on. Slowing dividend growth, remember, can be an ominous sign aEUR" namely that the firm doesnaEURtmt have the money!

That hasnaEURtmt been a problem for MPW. It raises its dividend (4% to 5% hikes) every year. Plus, weaEURtmre due for another raise next month.

Due for a Dividend Raise Next Month

Plus, the company just announced that itaEURtms going to be aggressive on the acquisition front in 2019. Historically Medical Properties has been a smart acquirer as its purchases have resulted in more cash flows and dividends for shareholders. The payout outlook is very good.

Time to Sell Signal #2: Yield Plus Dividend Growth is Too Low

MPW, as a real estate investment trust (REIT), uses dividends (and raises) in lieu of share repurchases to reward shareholders. This means our expected return from the stock can be simply calculated as:

Total Return = Current Yield + Expected Dividend Growth

MPW pays 5.6% as I write, but a raise is on the way, which means itaEURtmll likely pay 6% or more in the year ahead. Plus, over the next twelve months, investors will be drawn to the stockaEURtms higher dividend. The higher payout will act like a aEURoemagnetaEUR that will pull its share price along with it:

The Power of a Dividend Magnet

The chart shows that the stock price may over or undershoot the dividend growth, but over time it sticks with it. This magnetic payout growth plus current yield sets up the stock for 10% to 11% returns in the years ahead.

Time to Sell Signal #3: Dividend Coverage is Dicey

Dividends are great. Payout raises are even better. But theyaEURtmre only meaningful when aEURoewell coveredaEUR by meaningful cash flows. That means the company generates more than enough cash to meet the dividend, reducing the risk it will be cut. So letaEURtms consider FFO (funds from operations), which represents the amount of cash a REIT actually generates. ItaEURtms where our dividend originates.

I generally look for a dividend-to-FFO payout ratio below 80% for a REIT. (Remember, REITs are required to pay most of their earnings back to shareholders as dividends, so their payout ratios are typically higher than other stocks.)

MPW pays $1.00 per share per year in dividends today. LetaEURtms go ahead and assume the companyaEURtms typical raise, which will take the payout to $1.04 in 2019. That will be well covered by the $1.42 to $1.46 per share in FFO the firm is projecting (which translates to a payout ratio between 71% and 73%). No problem here aEUR" far from it!

Time to Sell Signal #4: Business is Fine Today , But Maybe Not Tomorrow

Consider the retail store reporting good earnings at the moment but likely to be swallowed up by Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com ( AMZN ) tomorrow. This is the mistake many value investors are making today. TheyaEURtmre picking up spare storefront change on the train tracks.

We have no such concerns with Medical Properties, the only publicly traded company that invests solely in hospitals. When Chairman, President and CEO Ed Aldag founded the company in 2003, hospitals didnaEURtmt have traditional mortgages available to them. And traditional loan packages would force them to lock up all of their asset value as collateral.

Thanks to EdaEURtms vision, hospitals now have access to favorable funding and EdaEURtms firm owns a valuable market niche. After all, what could be more Amazon-proof and recession-proof than hospitals?

Time to Sell Signal #5: Low aEURoeRelativeaEUR Yield

This is the only test that MPW doesnaEURtmt currently pass with flying colors, and is the reason why the stock is a aEURoeHoldaEUR (rather than a aEURoeBuyaEUR) in our Contrarian Income Report portfolio. ItaEURtms the curse of 105% returns!

I prefer to buy dividend growers when their relative yields are high. If youaEURtmre familiar with the Dogs of the Dow strategy , this is a way to apply it to an individual stock. Simply look at the yield, and buy the stock when your dollar buys more dividend than usual.

In MPWaEURtms case, its current yield is on the low end of its norm from the last nine years (versus the high relative yield we enjoyed when we purchased the stock):

Strive to Buy High Relative YieldsaEUR

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Options
Referenced Symbols: MPW , AMZN

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