Dividend paying stocks like Republic Services, Inc. (NYSE:RSG) 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 stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
A slim 1.8% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Republic Services could have potential. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 1.8% of its market capitalisation. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Republic Services for its dividend – read on to learn more.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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, Republic Services paid out 45% of its profit as dividends. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Republic Services paid out a conservative 43% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. It’s positive to see that Republic Services’s dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Is Republic Services’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Republic Services 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 is a measure of a company’s total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Republic Services has net debt of 3.01 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors’ comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. With EBIT of 4.65 times its interest expense, Republic Services’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.
We update our data on Republic Services every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. Republic Services has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of 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$0.76 in 2010, compared to US$1.62 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 7.9% a year over that time.
Companies like this, growing their dividend at a decent rate, can be very valuable over the long term, if the rate of growth can be maintained.
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. It’s good to see Republic Services has been growing its earnings per share at 16% a year over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Republic Services’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. It’s great to see that Republic Services is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. Republic Services has met all of our criteria, including having strong cash flow that covers the dividend. We definitely think it would be worthwhile looking closer.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 14 analysts we track are forecasting for Republic Services for free with public analyst estimates for the company.
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 email@example.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.