Are Dividend Investors Making A Mistake With Econocom Group SE (EBR:ECONB)?

Dividend paying stocks like Econocom Group SE (EBR:ECONB) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

Econocom Group yields a solid 5.2%, although it has only been paying for two years. A high yield probably looks enticing, but investors are likely wondering about the short payment history. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 4.9% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

ENXTBR:ECONB Historical Dividend Yield, January 22nd 2020
ENXTBR:ECONB Historical Dividend Yield, January 22nd 2020

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Econocom Group paid out 59% of its profit as dividends. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

Is Econocom Group’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Econocom Group has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with 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. 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 2.76 times its EBITDA, Econocom Group’s debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Econocom Group has EBIT of 10.78 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Econocom Group’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. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can’t be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. Its most recent annual dividend was €0.12 per share, effectively flat on its first payment two years ago.

Modest dividend growth is good to see, especially with the payments being relatively stable. However, the payment history is relatively short and we wouldn’t want to rely on this dividend too much.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Over the past five years, it looks as though Econocom Group’s EPS have declined at around 2.7% a year. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn’t automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we’d vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Econocom Group’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Econocom Group’s payout ratio is within an average range for most market participants. Earnings per share are down, and to our mind Econocom Group has not been paying a dividend long enough to demonstrate its resilience across economic cycles. In summary, we’re unenthused by Econocom Group as a dividend stock. It’s not that we think it is a bad company; it simply falls short of our criteria in some key areas.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 5 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.