Dividend paying stocks like QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX:QBE) 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. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for QBE Insurance Group. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 2.5% of market capitalisation this year. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, QBE Insurance Group's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. QBE Insurance Group paid out 84% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.
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. QBE Insurance 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. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having been cut one or more times over this time. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.1 in 2010, compared to US$0.3 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 72% over that time.
When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. It's not great to see that QBE Insurance Group's have fallen at approximately 5.5% over the past five years. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. First, we think QBE Insurance Group has an acceptable payout ratio. 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. With this information in mind, we think QBE Insurance Group may not be an ideal dividend stock.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. Taking the debate a bit further, we've identified 3 warning signs for QBE Insurance Group that investors need to be conscious of moving forward.
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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