Is Neste Oyj (HEL:NESTE) A Great Dividend Stock?

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Today we’ll take a closer look at Neste Oyj (HEL:NESTE) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

A slim 2.6% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Neste Oyj could have potential. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Neste Oyj for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

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HLSE:NESTE Historical Dividend Yield, June 26th 2019
HLSE:NESTE Historical Dividend Yield, June 26th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 81% of Neste Oyj’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. It’s paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Neste Oyj paid out 50% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. It’s positive to see that Neste Oyj’s dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Neste Oyj’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Neste Oyj’s dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €0.27 in 2009, compared to €0.76 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% a year over that time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 11% 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

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Earnings have grown at around 6.7% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! EPS have been growing at a reasonable rate, although with most of the profits being paid out to shareholders, we question if the company will be able to keep growing its dividends in the future.

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. Neste Oyj’s is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Neste Oyj out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 17 analysts we track are forecasting for Neste Oyj for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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 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.