Read This Before Buying The Weir Group PLC (LON:WEIR) For Its Dividend

Today we’ll take a closer look at The Weir Group PLC (LON:WEIR) 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. 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.

With Weir Group yielding 5.8% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Remember that the recent share price drop will make Weir Group’s yield look higher, even though recent events might have impacted the company’s prospects. 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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LSE:WEIR Historical Dividend Yield, March 17th 2020
LSE:WEIR Historical Dividend Yield, March 17th 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. 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. Although Weir Group pays a dividend, it was loss-making during the past year. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

The company paid out 83% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is adequate, but reduces the wriggle room in the event of a downturn.

Is Weir Group’s Balance Sheet Risky?

Given Weir Group is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 2.35 times its EBITDA, Weir Group has a noticeable amount of debt, although if business stays steady, this may not be overly concerning.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Weir Group has EBIT of 5.38 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Weir Group’s financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Weir Group has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.19 in 2010, compared to UK£0.47 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 9.7% a year over that time.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.

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 6.8% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! It’s good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term – assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.

Conclusion

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. We’re not keen on the fact that Weir Group paid dividends despite reporting a loss over the past year, although fortunately its dividend was covered by cash flow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Weir Group out there.

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. For example, we’ve identified 4 warning signs for Weir Group (1 can’t be ignored!) that you should be aware of before investing.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 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.