Today we’ll take a closer look at Communications Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:JCS) 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. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it’s important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you’ll find our analysis useful.
A 1.2% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Communications Systems has some staying power. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Communications Systems for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.
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. 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. Communications Systems paid out 18% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Given the low payout ratio, it is hard to envision the dividend coming under threat, barring a catastrophe.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Communications Systems’s cash payout ratio last year was 16%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It’s positive to see that Communications Systems’s dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company’s earnings, we do note Communications Systems’s strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.
We update our data on Communications Systems every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Communications Systems’s dividend payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.48 in 2010, compared to US$0.08 last year. Dividend payments have fallen sharply, down 83% over that time.
We struggle to make a case for buying Communications Systems for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.
Dividend Growth Potential
Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. Over the past five years, it looks as though Communications Systems’s EPS have declined at around 5.2% 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.
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. First, we like that the company’s dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Communications Systems from a dividend perspective. It’s not that we think it’s a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in Communications Systems in our latest insider ownership analysis.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.