Is Ashley Services Group Limited (ASX:ASH) An Attractive Dividend Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
December 16, 2020

Is Ashley Services Group Limited (ASX:ASH) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

With a six-year payment history and a 7.0% yield, many investors probably find Ashley Services Group intriguing. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Ashley Services Group for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

ASX:ASH Historic Dividend December 17th 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 83% of Ashley Services Group's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. It's paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a 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. Ashley Services Group paid out a conservative 29% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. 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.

With a strong net cash balance, Ashley Services Group investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Ashley Services Group's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. Looking at the data, we can see that Ashley Services Group has been paying a dividend for the past six years. It's good to see that Ashley Services Group has been paying a dividend for a number of years. However, the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, and we're concerned that what has been cut once, could be cut again. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was AU$0.05 in 2014, compared to AU$0.03 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 8.5% per year over that time. Ashley Services Group's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 8.5% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Ashley Services Group for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past six years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. Over the past five years, it looks as though Ashley Services Group's EPS have declined at around 20% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Ashley Services Group's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

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 Ashley Services Group has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Ultimately, Ashley Services Group comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. As an example, we've identified 2 warning signs for Ashley Services Group that you should be aware of before investing.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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