Read This Before Buying BAE Systems plc (LON:BA.) For Its Dividend

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 02, 2021
LSE:BA.
Source: Shutterstock

Today we'll take a closer look at BAE Systems plc (LON:BA.) 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 popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

With BAE Systems yielding 4.9% 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 research can reduce the risk of buying BAE Systems for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on BAE Systems!

historic-dividend
LSE:BA. Historic Dividend February 3rd 2021

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. BAE Systems paid out 61% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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. BAE Systems' cash payout ratio in the last year was 48%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Consider getting our latest analysis on BAE Systems' financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of BAE Systems' 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 UK£0.2 in 2011, compared to UK£0.2 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.4% a year over that time.

Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think is seriously impressive.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see BAE Systems has grown its earnings per share at 11% per annum over the past five years. BAE Systems' earnings per share have grown rapidly in recent years, although more than half of its profits are being paid out as dividends, which makes us wonder if the company has a limited number of reinvestment opportunities in its business.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that BAE Systems' dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think BAE Systems has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. Overall we think BAE Systems scores well on our analysis. It's not quite perfect, but we'd definitely be keen to take a closer look.

Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For instance, we've picked out 1 warning sign for BAE Systems that investors should take into consideration.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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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Simply Wall St is focused on providing unbiased, high-quality research coverage on every listed company in the world. Our research team consists of data scientists and multiple equity analysts with over two decades worth of financial markets experience between them.