Today we’ll take a closer look at Rexel S.A. (EPA:RXL) 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. 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.
With a eight-year payment history and a 4.9% yield, many investors probably find Rexel intriguing. It sure looks interesting on these metrics – but there’s always more to the story . Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Rexel for its dividend – read on to learn more.
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. Looking at the data, we can see that 61% of Rexel’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business – which could be good or bad.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Rexel paid out 112% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Rexel paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn’t generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to Rexel’s ability to maintain its dividend.
Is Rexel’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Rexel 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). Rexel has net debt of 3.48 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors’ comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Rexel has EBIT of 8.16 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. The first recorded dividend for Rexel, in the last decade, was eight years ago. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we’re cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was €0.40 in 2011, compared to €0.44 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 1.2% per year over this time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 1.2% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company’s earnings are not consistent.
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. Rexel’s EPS are effectively flat over the past five years. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Rexel’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, the company has a payout ratio that was within an average range for most dividend stocks, but it paid out virtually all of its generated cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with Rexel from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.
Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 13 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.
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 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.