Is LyondellBasell Industries N.V. (NYSE:LYB) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.
With a nine-year payment history and a 6.1% yield, many investors probably find LyondellBasell Industries intriguing. It sure looks interesting on these metrics – but there’s always more to the story. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 14% of its market capitalisation. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying LyondellBasell Industries for its dividend, and we’ll go through these below.
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. 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. LyondellBasell Industries paid out 53% 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.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. The company paid out 69% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash LyondellBasell Industries 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 LyondellBasell Industries’ Balance Sheet Risky?
As LyondellBasell Industries 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 2.59 times its EBITDA, LyondellBasell Industries has a noticeable amount of debt, although if business stays steady, this may not be overly concerning.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Net interest cover of 10.50 times its interest expense appears reasonable for LyondellBasell Industries, although we’re conscious that even high interest cover doesn’t make a company bulletproof.
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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that LyondellBasell Industries paid its first dividend at least nine years ago. It’s good to see that LyondellBasell Industries has been paying a dividend for a number of years. However, the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, and we’re concerned that what has been cut once, could be cut again. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.4 in 2011, compared to US$4.2 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 30% a year over that time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 30% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
It’s not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We’re generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there’s a good chance of bigger dividends in future? LyondellBasell Industries’ earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company’s dividends could be eroded by inflation.
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 LyondellBasell Industries is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Earnings per share are down, and LyondellBasell Industries’ dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Overall, LyondellBasell Industries falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.
Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For instance, we’ve picked out 3 warning signs for LyondellBasell Industries 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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