Dividend paying stocks like Cogeco Inc. (TSE:CGO) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested 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.
While Cogeco’s 1.8% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 1.8% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Cogeco 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 70% of Cogeco’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Cogeco’s cash payout ratio last year was 2.5%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. 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.
Is Cogeco’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Cogeco has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with 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. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. With net debt of 2.58 times its EBITDA, Cogeco’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. With EBIT of 3.32 times its interest expense, Cogeco’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.
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 Cogeco’s 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 ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.32 in 2009, compared to CA$1.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 18% a year over that time.
With rapid dividend growth and no notable cuts to the dividend over a lengthy period of time, we think this company has a lot going for it.
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. In the last five years, Cogeco’s earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 9.0% per annum. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn’t automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we’d vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. First, we think Cogeco has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. It hasn’t demonstrated a strong ability to grow earnings per share, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Cogeco out there.
You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in Cogeco stock.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.