Are You An Income Investor? Don’t Miss Out On Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:RUTH)

Today we’ll take a closer look at Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:RUTH) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.

Investors might not know much about Ruth’s Hospitality Group’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last seven years and offers a 2.6% yield. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. The company also returned around 6.4% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Ruth’s Hospitality Group for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

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NasdaqGS:RUTH Historical Dividend Yield, February 5th 2020
NasdaqGS:RUTH Historical Dividend Yield, February 5th 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. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Ruth’s Hospitality Group paid out 34% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Ruth’s Hospitality Group’s cash payout ratio in the last year was 38%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by 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.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Ruth’s Hospitality Group’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. Looking at the data, we can see that Ruth’s Hospitality Group has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we’d prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.16 in 2013, compared to US$0.52 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 18% per year over this time.

Ruth’s Hospitality Group has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend’s purchasing power over the long term. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Ruth’s Hospitality Group has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Ruth’s Hospitality Group’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that Ruth’s Hospitality Group has low and conservative payout ratios. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we’d like. Overall we think Ruth’s Hospitality Group scores well on our analysis. It’s not quite perfect, but we’d definitely be keen to take a closer look.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 3 analysts we track are forecasting for Ruth’s Hospitality Group for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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.