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Could Suncor Energy Inc. (TSE:SU) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.
With Suncor Energy yielding 4.1% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 4.6% of market capitalisation this year. 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.
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. Looking at the data, we can see that 61% of Suncor Energy’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business – which could be good or bad.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Suncor Energy paid out 38% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. 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.
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 Suncor Energy’s dividend payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.20 in 2009, compared to CA$1.68 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 24% per year over this time.
Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven’t experienced any notable falls during this period.
Dividend Growth Potential
The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient’s purchasing power. While there may be fluctuations in the past , Suncor Energy’s earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company’s dividends could be eroded by inflation.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Suncor Energy’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think Suncor Energy has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings per share have actually shrunk, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Suncor Energy out there.
Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 13 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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 email@example.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.