Today we'll take a closer look at UPM-Kymmene Oyj (HEL:UPM) 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 UPM-Kymmene Oyj yielding 4.2% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.
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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. UPM-Kymmene Oyj paid out 124% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.
We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 533%, UPM-Kymmene Oyj's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given UPM-Kymmene Oyj's payouts were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would definitely be concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.
With a strong net cash balance, UPM-Kymmene Oyj investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of UPM-Kymmene Oyj's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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 UPM-Kymmene Oyj'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 10-year period, the first annual payment was €0.6 in 2011, compared to €1.3 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 9.0% a year over that time.
Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.
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, UPM-Kymmene Oyj's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 9.4% per annum. 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.
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. We're a bit uncomfortable with UPM-Kymmene Oyj paying out a high percentage of both its cashflow and earnings. It's not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The dividends have been relatively consistent, but we wonder for how much longer this will be true. Using these criteria, UPM-Kymmene Oyj looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.
Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. For instance, we've picked out 2 warning signs for UPM-Kymmene Oyj that investors should take into consideration.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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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