Should You Buy MJ Gleeson plc (LON:GLE) For Its Dividend?

Is MJ Gleeson plc (LON:GLE) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

In this case, MJ Gleeson likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 4.8% dividend yield and eight-year payment history. It sure looks interesting on these metrics – but there’s always more to the story . When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on MJ Gleeson!

LSE:GLE Historical Dividend Yield, March 15th 2020
LSE:GLE Historical Dividend Yield, March 15th 2020

Payout ratios

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, MJ Gleeson paid out 73% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. MJ Gleeson paid out 91% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. MJ Gleeson paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn’t generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were MJ Gleeson to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company’s earnings, we do note MJ Gleeson’s strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of MJ Gleeson’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that MJ Gleeson paid its first dividend at least eight years ago. 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 eight-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.05 in 2012, compared to UK£0.34 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 27% a year over that time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 27% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

MJ Gleeson has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.

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. Earnings have grown at around 7.5% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share are growing at an acceptable rate, although the company is paying out more than half of its profits, which we think could constrain its ability to reinvest in its business.

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. MJ Gleeson 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. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. In summary, MJ Gleeson has a number of shortcomings that we’d find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas 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. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For example, we’ve picked out 2 warning signs for MJ Gleeson 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%.

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.