Dividend paying stocks like Anhui Expressway Company Limited (HKG:995) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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 Anhui Expressway yielding 6.1% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Anhui Expressway for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.
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. In the last year, Anhui Expressway paid out 36% 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.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Anhui Expressway paid out 66% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. 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.
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. Anhui Expressway has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CN¥0.23 in 2009, compared to CN¥0.25 last year. Its dividends have grown at less than 1% per annum over this time frame.
Dividends have grown relatively slowly, which is not great, but some investors may value the relative consistency of the dividend.
Dividend Growth Potential
Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Earnings have grown at around 6.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share have been growing at a credible rate. What’s more, the payout ratio is reasonable and provides some protection to the dividend, or even the potential to increase it.
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. Firstly, we like that Anhui Expressway pays out a low fraction of earnings. It pays out a higher percentage of its cashflow, although this is within acceptable bounds. It hasn’t demonstrated a strong ability to grow earnings per share, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. Anhui Expressway has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.
Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Anhui Expressway management tenure, salary, and performance.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
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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. Thank you for reading.