Could Loblaw Companies Limited (TSE:L) 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. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
A 2.2% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Loblaw Companies has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 3.3% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Loblaw Companies for its dividend, and we'll go through these 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. Loblaw Companies paid out 45% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Loblaw Companies' cash payout ratio last year was 13%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's positive to see that Loblaw Companies' dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Loblaw Companies' latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Loblaw Companies' dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.8 in 2011, compared to CA$1.3 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 4.8% per year over this time.
While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.
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. Loblaw Companies has grown its earnings per share at 9.2% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a credible rate. What's more, the payout ratio is reasonable and provides some protection to the dividend, or even the potential to increase it.
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. It's great to see that Loblaw Companies is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. Loblaw Companies has met all of our criteria, including having strong cash flow that covers the dividend. We definitely think it would be worthwhile looking closer.
Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For example, we've picked out 2 warning signs for Loblaw Companies that investors should know about before committing capital to this stock.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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Loblaw Companies Limited, a food and pharmacy company, engages in the grocery, pharmacy, health and beauty, apparel, general merchandise, financial services, and wireless mobile products and services businesses in Canada.
Solid track record with adequate balance sheet and pays a dividend.