Does It Make Sense To Buy Servizi Italia S.p.A. (BIT:SRI) For Its Yield?

Today we’ll take a closer look at Servizi Italia S.p.A. (BIT:SRI) 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. Unfortunately, it’s common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

With Servizi Italia yielding 6.2% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 3.3% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. 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

historic-dividend
BIT:SRI Historic Dividend August 27th 2020

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 105% of Servizi Italia’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Servizi Italia paid out 81% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. It’s disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Servizi Italia fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we’d be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

We update our data on Servizi Italia every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. Servizi Italia has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was €0.2 in 2010, compared to €0.1 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 2.5% a year during that period. Servizi Italia’s dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn’t fallen by 2.5% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

When a company’s per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company’s capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Over the past five years, it looks as though Servizi Italia’s EPS have declined at around 23% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Servizi Italia’s earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company’s dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. We’re a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Earnings per share are down, and Servizi Italia’s dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Using these criteria, Servizi Italia looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For instance, we’ve picked out 5 warning signs for Servizi Italia that investors should take into consideration.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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