Should Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. (TSE:WPM) Be Part Of Your Income Portfolio?

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Is Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. (TSE:WPM) 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.

With a 1.5% yield and a eight-year payment history, investors probably think Wheaton Precious Metals looks like a reliable dividend stock. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

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TSX:WPM Historical Dividend Yield, July 16th 2019
TSX:WPM Historical Dividend Yield, July 16th 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. Wheaton Precious Metals paid out 38% 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. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Unfortunately, while Wheaton Precious Metals pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it’s not ideal from a dividend perspective.

Is Wheaton Precious Metals’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Wheaton Precious Metals has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 2.09 times its EBITDA, Wheaton Precious Metals’s debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Wheaton Precious Metals has EBIT of 5.16 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

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 Wheaton Precious Metals paid its first dividend at least eight years ago. It’s good to see that Wheaton Precious Metals 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 US$0.12 in 2011, compared to US$0.36 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 15% per year over this time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 15% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

It’s not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We’re generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there’s a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Over the past five years, it looks as though Wheaton Precious Metals’s EPS have declined at around 2.3% a year. 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.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Wheaton Precious Metals’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 like Wheaton Precious Metals’s low dividend payout ratio, although we’re a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In summary, Wheaton Precious Metals has a number of shortcomings that we’d find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are likely more attractive alternatives out there.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.

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.