Could Greggs plc (LON:GRG) Have The Makings Of Another Dividend Aristocrat?

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Could Greggs plc (LON:GRG) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. 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.

Investors might not know much about Greggs’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last nine years and offers a 1.6% yield. A 1.6% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Greggs for its dividend – read on to learn more.

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LSE:GRG Historical Dividend Yield, June 11th 2019
LSE:GRG Historical Dividend Yield, June 11th 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Greggs paid out 55% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Greggs paid out a conservative 48% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. 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 Greggs’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. The first recorded dividend for Greggs, in the last decade, was nine years ago. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we’d prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.17 in 2010, compared to UK£0.36 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 8.9% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We’re conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend-payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years – a distinction Greggs has not achieved yet.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it’s also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient’s purchasing power. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Greggs has grown its earnings per share at 22% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share are sharply up, but we wonder if paying out more than half its earnings (leaving less for reinvestment) is an implicit signal that Greggs’s growth will be slower in the future.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Greggs’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Greggs’s payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we’d like. Overall we think Greggs is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 8 analysts we track are forecasting for Greggs for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.