Dividend paying stocks like ARB Corporation Limited (ASX:ARB) 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 popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.
A 2.0% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests ARB has some staying power. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.
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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, ARB paid out 55% 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.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. ARB paid out 101% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. While ARB’s dividends were covered by the company’s reported profits, free cash flow is somewhat more important, so it’s not great to see that the company didn’t generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were ARB to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of ARB’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. ARB 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 AU$0.17 in 2009, compared to AU$0.38 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 8.7% per year over this time.
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. ARB has grown its earnings per share at 3.4% per annum over the past five years. 3.4% per annum is not a particularly high rate of growth, which we find curious. 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.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that ARB’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think ARB has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about ARB from a dividend perspective. It’s not that we think it’s a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 7 ARB analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.