Is Imperial Oil Limited (TSE:IMO) A Smart Choice For Dividend Investors?

Is Imperial Oil Limited (TSE:IMO) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it’s important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you’ll find our analysis useful.

A 2.5% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Imperial Oil has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 7.7% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Imperial Oil for its dividend – read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Imperial Oil!

TSX:IMO Historical Dividend Yield, August 2nd 2019
TSX:IMO Historical Dividend Yield, August 2nd 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. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company’s net income after tax. Imperial Oil paid out 29% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the 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. Imperial Oil’s cash payout ratio last year was 25%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It’s positive to see that Imperial Oil’s 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.

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. Imperial Oil has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.40 in 2009, compared to CA$0.88 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.2% a year over that time.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend’s purchasing power over the long term. Over the past five years, it looks as though Imperial Oil’s EPS have declined at around 4.6% a year. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company’s dividend.

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. Firstly, we like that Imperial Oil has low and conservative payout ratios. Second, it has a limited history of earnings per share growth, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. Overall we think Imperial Oil is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 6 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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