Is Saga plc (LON:SAGA) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it’s common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Saga is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. While Saga pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a loss-making financial company pays a dividend, the dividend is not being paid out of profit, which is a concern if the company can’t return to operating profitably.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Saga’s financial position here.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. Looking at the data, we can see that Saga has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.06 in 2015, compared to UK£0.04 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 7.8% per year over that time. Saga’s dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn’t fallen by 7.8% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term 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
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 Saga’s EPS have declined at around 34% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Saga’s earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.
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, it’s not great to see a dividend being paid despite the company being unprofitable over the last year. 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. Using these criteria, Saga looks suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.
Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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