Is Saga Communications, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:SGA) 4.6% Dividend Worth Your Time?

Is Saga Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:SGA) 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 goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Saga Communications is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. The company also returned around 0.7% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Saga Communications for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

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NasdaqGM:SGA Historical Dividend Yield, March 16th 2020
NasdaqGM:SGA Historical Dividend Yield, March 16th 2020

Payout ratios

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. Looking at the data, we can see that 54% of Saga Communications’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Saga Communications paid out 38% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It’s positive to see that Saga Communications’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.

With a strong net cash balance, Saga Communications investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

We update our data on Saga Communications every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

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. Looking at the data, we can see that Saga Communications has been paying a dividend for the past six years. It’s good to see that Saga Communications 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 six-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.80 in 2014, compared to US$1.28 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 5.5% per year over that time. Saga Communications’s dividend hasn’t shrunk linearly at 5.5% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of 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

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it’s even more important to see if EPS are growing. It’s not great to see that Saga Communications’s have fallen at approximately 2.9% over the past five years. 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.

Conclusion

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 think Saga Communications has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Ultimately, Saga Communications comes up short on our dividend analysis. It’s not that we think it is a bad company – just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is to one to which is more unpredictable. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. As an example, we’ve identified 1 warning sign for Saga Communications that you should be aware of before investing.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.

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.