Is Bénéteau S.A. (EPA:BEN) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

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Today we’ll take a closer look at Bénéteau S.A. (EPA:BEN) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

With a 2.5% yield and a eight-year payment history, investors probably think Bénéteau looks like a reliable dividend stock. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Bénéteau for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Bénéteau!

ENXTPA:BEN Historical Dividend Yield, May 29th 2019
ENXTPA:BEN Historical Dividend Yield, May 29th 2019

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. So we need to be form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Bénéteau paid out 35% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Bénéteau paid out 262% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term. While Bénéteau’s dividends were covered by the company’s reported profits, free cash flow is somewhat more important, so it’s not great to see that the company didn’t generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Bénéteau to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Bénéteau’s financial position here.

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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that Bénéteau paid its first dividend at least eight years ago. It’s good to see that Bénéteau has been paying a dividend for a number of years. However, the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, and we’re concerned that what has been cut once, could be cut again. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was €0.12 in 2011, compared to €0.26 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 10% a year over that time. Bénéteau’s dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn’t grown 10% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

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. It’s good to see Bénéteau has been growing its earnings per share at 142% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Bénéteau’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, the company has a conservative payout ratio, although we’d note that its cashflow in the past year was substantially lower than its reported profit. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Bénéteau from a dividend perspective. It’s not that we think it’s a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 6 analysts we track are forecasting for Bénéteau for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.