Three Things You Should Check Before Buying Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) For Its Dividend

Today we’ll take a closer look at Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) 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. 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.

A 2.8% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Portland General Electric has some staying power. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Portland General Electric for its dividend – read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Portland General Electric!

NYSE:POR Historical Dividend Yield, January 8th 2020
NYSE:POR Historical Dividend Yield, January 8th 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. 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. Portland General Electric paid out 66% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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. Last year, Portland General Electric paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

Is Portland General Electric’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Portland General Electric has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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 3.25 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.44 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Portland General Electric, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

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

Dividend Volatility

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Portland General Electric’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 ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.98 in 2010, compared to US$1.54 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.6% a year over that time.

Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think is seriously impressive.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Portland General Electric has grown its earnings per share at 11% per annum over the past five years. Portland General Electric’s earnings per share have grown rapidly in recent years, although more than half of its profits are being paid out as dividends, which makes us wonder if the company has a limited number of reinvestment opportunities 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. First, we think Portland General Electric has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Portland General Electric out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 8 Portland General Electric analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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.