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About 50% of US mortgage REITs cut, suspend dividends over COVID-19 crisis

Roughly half of the mortgage real estate investment trusts in the U.S. lowered or suspended their dividend payments amid the financial turmoil brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, share prices of mortgage REITs have plummeted due to uncertainties surrounding the industry’s ability to meet rising margin calls, forcing them to focus on maximizing and preserving liquidity.

Eleven mortgage REITs declared dividend payment reductions year-to-date, with most of the cuts exceeding 10% of the previous dividend amount.

Tremont Mortgage Trust reported the largest dividend cut, paying its common shareholders 1 cent per share for the first quarter, a 95.5% drop from the previous quarter.

Two other mortgage REITs made drastic cuts on their latest quarterly dividends: New Residential Investment Corp. and Two Harbors Investment Corp. reduced their dividends by 90% and 87.5%, respectively, to 5 cents per share.

Manhattan Bridge Capital Inc. made the smallest dividend cut, reducing its payment by 8.3% to 11 cents per share for the first quarter.

Nine companies have halted dividend payments, with the latest suspension coming from Colony Credit Real Estate, canceling its monthly dividend starting in April.

Instead of directly reducing or suspending its dividend payment, Great Ajax Corp. opted to pay its dividends entirely in stock to help maximize its cash holdings. Other mortgage REITs will pay their dividends in a combination of cash and common stock, including Ready Capital Corp. with a cash component not exceeding 20% in the aggregate and Cherry Hill Mortgage Investment Corp. with a total cash payment of no more than 50%.

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