Tread With Caution Around Banco Santander, S.A.'s (BME:SAN) 8.6% Dividend Yield

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 11, 2020
BME:SAN

Could Banco Santander, S.A. (BME:SAN) 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. 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 high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Banco Santander. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. 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.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Banco Santander!

historic-dividend
BME:SAN Historic Dividend November 11th 2020

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. 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. Although it reported a loss over the past 12 months, Banco Santander currently pays a dividend. When a loss-making financial company pays a dividend, the dividend is not being paid out of profit, which is a concern if the company can't return to operating profitably.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Banco Santander's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Banco Santander's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was €0.6 in 2010, compared to €0.2 last year. Dividend payments have fallen sharply, down 67% over that time.

We struggle to make a case for buying Banco Santander for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past 10 years.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. Over the past five years, it looks as though Banco Santander's EPS have declined at around 24% a year. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with it paying a dividend while reporting a loss over the past year. Earnings per share are down, and Banco Santander's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. In short, we're not keen on Banco Santander from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we've spotted a few too many concerns with this one to get comfortable.

It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For instance, we've picked out 2 warning signs for Banco Santander that investors should take into consideration.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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