Would InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Could InterContinental Hotels Group PLC (LON:IHG) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Unfortunately, it’s common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A 1.8% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests InterContinental Hotels Group has some staying power. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding InterContinental Hotels Group for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on InterContinental Hotels Group!

LSE:IHG Historical Dividend Yield, January 16th 2020
LSE:IHG Historical Dividend Yield, January 16th 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 52% of InterContinental Hotels Group’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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. The company paid out 54% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash InterContinental Hotels Group has available to meet other needs. 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.

Is InterContinental Hotels Group’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As InterContinental Hotels Group has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and 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 2.74 times its EBITDA, InterContinental Hotels 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. InterContinental Hotels Group has EBIT of 8.56 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of InterContinental Hotels Group’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. InterContinental Hotels 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 cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.56 in 2010, compared to US$1.20 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 7.9% per year over this time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 7.9% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate, but with at least one substantial cut in the payments, we’re not certain this dividend stock would be ideal for someone intending to live on the income.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Earnings have grown at around 3.0% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Growth of 3.0% is relatively anaemic growth, which we wonder about. When a business is not growing, it often makes more sense to pay higher dividends to shareholders rather than retain the cash with no way to utilise it.

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 InterContinental Hotels Group is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than InterContinental Hotels Group out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 19 analysts we track are forecasting for InterContinental Hotels Group 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%.

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.