Could NortonLifeLock Inc. (NASDAQ:NLOK) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. 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 2.5% yield and a seven-year payment history, investors probably think NortonLifeLock looks like a reliable dividend stock. 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. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 9.2% of its market capitalisation. 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.
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. In the last year, NortonLifeLock paid out 37% of its profit as dividends. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. NortonLifeLock’s cash payout ratio last year was 17%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It’s positive to see that NortonLifeLock’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 NortonLifeLock’s strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.
We update our data on NortonLifeLock every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.
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. NortonLifeLock has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once, and we’re cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.60 in 2013, compared to US$0.50 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 2.6% per year over that time. NortonLifeLock’s dividend hasn’t shrunk linearly at 2.6% 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, it’s even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing – it’s not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see NortonLifeLock has grown its earnings per share at 49% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.
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. It’s great to see that NortonLifeLock is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. NortonLifeLock performs highly under this analysis, although it falls slightly short of our exacting standards. At the right valuation, it could be a solid dividend prospect.
It’s important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. Case in point: We’ve spotted 5 warning signs for NortonLifeLock (of which 1 is a bit unpleasant!) you should know about.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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