Is Danone S.A. (EPA:BN) A Smart Choice For Dividend Investors?

Is Danone S.A. (EPA:BN) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

So you might want to consider getting our latest analysis on Danone’s financial health here.

A 2.4% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Danone has some staying power. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Danone for its dividend – read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Danone!

ENXTPA:BN Historical Dividend Yield, October 1st 2019
ENXTPA:BN Historical Dividend Yield, October 1st 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Danone paid out 58% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. The company paid out 59% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Danone has available to meet other needs. 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.

Is Danone’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Danone has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) 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 2.80 times its EBITDA, Danone has a noticeable amount of debt, although if business stays steady, this may not be overly concerning.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Danone has interest cover of more than 12 times its interest expense, which we think is quite strong.

Dividend Volatility

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Danone’s dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €1.20 in 2009, compared to €1.94 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.9% a year over that time.

Dividends have grown relatively slowly, which is not great, but some investors may value the relative consistency of the dividend.

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. Earnings have grown at around 6.7% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share are growing at an acceptable rate, although the company is paying out more than half of its profits, which we think could constrain its ability to reinvest in its business.

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. First, we think Danone is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Earnings growth has been limited, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Danone 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.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 25 analysts we track are forecasting for Danone for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.