Australian Finance Group Limited (ASX:AFG) Is Yielding 5.4% – But Is It A Buy?

Could Australian Finance Group Limited (ASX:AFG) 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. 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.

With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Australian Finance Group is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Australian Finance Group’s yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. 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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ASX:AFG Historical Dividend Yield, August 8th 2019
ASX:AFG Historical Dividend Yield, August 8th 2019

Payout ratios

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, Australian Finance Group paid out 67% 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.

Dividend Volatility

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. Looking at the data, we can see that Australian Finance Group has been paying a dividend for the past four years. It has only been paying dividends for a few short years, and the dividend has already been cut at least once. This is one income stream we’re not ready to live on. During the past four-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.043 in 2015, compared to AU$0.10 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 25% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

It’s not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We’re generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Australian Finance Group has grown its earnings per share at 14% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly, but given that it is paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, we wonder how Australian Finance Group will keep funding its growth projects in the future.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Australian Finance Group’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 Australian Finance Group has an acceptable payout ratio. Second, earnings per share have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. In summary, we’re unenthused by Australian Finance Group as a dividend stock. It’s not that we think it is a bad company; it simply falls short of our criteria in some key areas.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 3 Australian Finance Group 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%.

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.