Should You Buy Horizon North Logistics Inc. (TSE:HNL) For Its Dividend?

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Could Horizon North Logistics Inc. (TSE:HNL) 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. 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.

In this case, Horizon North Logistics likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 4.0% dividend yield and eight-year payment history. It sure looks interesting on these metrics – but there’s always more to the story . Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett’s two rules: 1) Don’t lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We’ll run through some checks below to help with this.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Horizon North Logistics!

TSX:HNL Historical Dividend Yield, June 18th 2019
TSX:HNL Historical Dividend Yield, June 18th 2019

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. Horizon North Logistics paid out 799% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. The company paid out 67% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Horizon North Logistics has available to meet other needs. It’s disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Horizon North Logistics fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we’d be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

Is Horizon North Logistics’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Horizon North Logistics’s dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick way to check a company’s financial situation uses these 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 on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Horizon North Logistics has net debt of less than two times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA), which we think is not too troublesome.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Horizon North Logistics, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Horizon North Logistics’s financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that Horizon North Logistics paid its first dividend at least eight years ago. It’s good to see that Horizon North Logistics 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 eight-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.16 in 2011, compared to CA$0.08 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 8.3% per year over that time. Horizon North Logistics’s dividend hasn’t shrunk linearly at 8.3% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

When a company’s per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either the business or management. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.

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. It’s not great to see that Horizon North Logistics’s have fallen at approximately 52% 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.

We’d also point out that Horizon North Logistics issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental – it’s hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Horizon North Logistics’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We’re not keen on the fact that Horizon North Logistics paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. 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. In this analysis, Horizon North Logistics doesn’t shape up too well as a dividend stock. We’d find it hard to look past the flaws, and would not be inclined to think of it as a reliable dividend-payer.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting 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.