Today we’ll take a closer look at Elecnor, S.A. (BME:ENO) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. Unfortunately, it’s common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
With a 2.4% yield and a nine-year payment history, investors probably think Elecnor looks like a reliable dividend stock. A 2.4% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Elecnor for its dividend, and we’ll go through these below.
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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. In the last year, Elecnor paid out 33% of its profit as dividends. This is 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.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Elecnor’s cash payout ratio last year was 25%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow.
Is Elecnor’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Elecnor has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick way to check a company’s financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company’s total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company’s ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). Elecnor has net debt of 5.65 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. With EBIT of 1.82 times its interest expense, Elecnor’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company’s dividend while these metrics persist.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Elecnor’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that Elecnor paid its first dividend at least nine years ago. Its dividend has not fluctuated much that time, which we like, but we’re conscious that the company might not yet have a track record of maintaining dividends in all economic conditions. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was €0.086 in 2010, compared to €0.29 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 14% per year over this time.
We’re not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.
Dividend Growth Potential
Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it’s also important to assess if 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. Earnings have grown at around 7.1% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! It’s good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term – assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.
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. It’s great to see that Elecnor is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we’d like. Elecnor has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.
Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Elecnor management tenure, salary, and performance.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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 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.