Would Aircastle Limited (NYSE:AYR) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Today we’ll take a closer look at Aircastle Limited (NYSE:AYR) 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.

So you might want to consider getting our latest analysis on Aircastle’s financial health here.

With Aircastle yielding 5.5% 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. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 4.3% 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.

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NYSE:AYR Historical Dividend Yield, October 5th 2019
NYSE:AYR Historical Dividend Yield, October 5th 2019

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. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Aircastle paid out 44% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Unfortunately, while Aircastle pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it’s not ideal from a dividend perspective.

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. Aircastle 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 US$0.40 in 2009, compared to US$1.20 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 12% per year over this time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven’t experienced any notable falls during this period.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Aircastle has grown its earnings per share at 46% per annum over the past five years. With high earnings per share growth in recent times and a modest payout ratio, we think this is an attractive combination if earnings can be reinvested to generate further growth.

Conclusion

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. First, we like Aircastle’s low dividend payout ratio, although we’re a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. Aircastle has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 8 analysts we track are forecasting for Aircastle for free with public 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%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.