Dividend paying stocks like Ercros, S.A. (BME:ECR) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.
Investors might not know much about Ercros’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last four years and offers a 2.7% yield. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 4.2% of its market capitalisation. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Ercros paid out 21% of its profit as dividends. Given the low payout ratio, it is hard to envision the dividend coming under threat, barring a catastrophe.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Ercros paid out 15% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. 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.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Ercros’ latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Ercros has been paying a dividend for the past four years. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can’t be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past four-year period, the first annual payment was €0.04 in 2016, compared to €0.05 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 5.7% a year over that time.
Ercros has been growing its dividend at a decent rate, and the payments have been stable despite the short payment history. This is a positive start.
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. It’s good to see Ercros has been growing its earnings per share at 16% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share are growing at a solid clip, and the payout ratio is low. We think this is an ideal combination in a dividend stock.
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 Ercros is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we’d like. Ercros 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.
Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For example, we’ve picked out 4 warning signs for Ercros that investors should know about before committing capital to this stock.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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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