Today we’ll take a closer look at South Port New Zealand Limited (NZSE:SPN) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it’s important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.
With South Port New Zealand yielding 4.1% 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 offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.
Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 72% of South Port New Zealand’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business – which could be good or bad.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. South Port New Zealand paid out 96% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. South Port New Zealand paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn’t generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to South Port New Zealand’s ability to maintain its dividend.
We update our data on South Port New Zealand 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of South Port New Zealand’s dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.1 in 2010, compared to NZ$0.3 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 7.2% a year over that time.
Companies like this, growing their dividend at a decent rate, can be very valuable over the long term, if the rate of growth can be maintained.
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. South Port New Zealand has grown its earnings per share at 4.0% per annum over the past five years. 4.0% per annum is not a particularly high rate of growth, which we find curious. When a business is not growing, it often makes more sense to pay higher dividends to shareholders rather than retain the cash with no way to utilise 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. South Port New Zealand gets a pass on its dividend payout ratio, but it paid out virtually all of its cash flow as dividends. This may just be a one-off, but we’d keep an eye on this. Earnings per share growth has been slow, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than South Port New Zealand out there.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in South Port New Zealand stock.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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