Key Things To Consider Before Buying EMIS Group plc (LON:EMIS) For Its Dividend

Is EMIS Group plc (LON:EMIS) 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.

Investors might not know much about EMIS Group’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last nine years and offers a 2.6% yield. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett’s two rules: 1) Don’t lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We’ll run through some checks below to help with this.

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AIM:EMIS Historical Dividend Yield, February 18th 2020
AIM:EMIS Historical Dividend Yield, February 18th 2020

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. EMIS Group paid out 82% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. It’s paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a 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. The company paid out 76% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is adequate, but reduces the wriggle room in the event of a downturn. It’s positive to see that EMIS Group’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 EMIS Group’s strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

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

Dividend Volatility

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. The first recorded dividend for EMIS Group, 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 UK£0.11 in 2011, compared to UK£0.31 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 12% per year over this time.

We’re not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

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. EMIS Group has grown its earnings per share at 2.1% per annum over the past five years. EMIS Group’s earnings per share have barely grown, which is not ideal – perhaps this is why the company pays out the majority of its earnings to shareholders. That’s fine as far as it goes, but we’re less enthusiastic as this often signals that the dividend is likely to grow slower in the future.

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. EMIS Group’s is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we’d like. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about EMIS Group 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 4 analysts we track are forecasting for EMIS Group 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%.

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.