Could Lectra SA (EPA:LSS) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. 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.
With a 1.7% yield and a nine-year payment history, investors probably think Lectra looks like a reliable dividend stock. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. That said, the recent jump in the share price will make Lectra’s dividend yield look smaller, even though the company prospects could be improving. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Lectra for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company’s net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 43% of Lectra’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Lectra’s cash payout ratio in the last year was 36%, 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.
While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company’s earnings, we do note Lectra’s strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Lectra’s financial position here.
Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. The first recorded dividend for Lectra, in the last decade, was nine years ago. Its dividend has not fluctuated much that time, which we like, but we’re conscious that the company might not yet have a track record of maintaining dividends in all economic conditions. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was €0.18 in 2011, compared to €0.40 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.3% per year over this time.
The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We’re conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend-payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years – a distinction Lectra has not achieved yet.
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. Earnings have grown at around 4.6% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! A payout ratio below 50% leaves ample room to reinvest in the business, and provides finanical flexibility. Earnings per share growth have grown slowly, which is not great, but if the retained earnings can be reinvested effectively, future growth may be stronger.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. It’s great to see that Lectra is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we’d like. Lectra has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a 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 Lectra for free with public analyst estimates for the company.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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