Stock Analysis

Is Savills plc (LON:SVS) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

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LSE:SVS
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Could Savills plc (LON:SVS) 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. 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.

A 1.5% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Savills has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.5% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Savills!

historic-dividend
LSE:SVS Historic Dividend March 15th 2021

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Savills paid out 35% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Savills' strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

We update our data on Savills every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. Savills has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past 10 years. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.09 in 2011, compared to UK£0.2 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 6.6% per year over this time. Savills' dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 6.6% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

A reasonable rate of dividend growth is good to see, but we're wary that the dividend history is not as solid as we'd like, having been cut at least once.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. While there may be fluctuations in the past , Savills' earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company's dividends could be eroded by inflation. A payout ratio below 50% leaves ample room to reinvest in the business, and provides finanical flexibility. However, earnings per share are unfortunately not growing much. Might this suggest that the company should pay a higher dividend instead?

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Savills' dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're glad to see Savills has a low payout ratio, as this suggests earnings are being reinvested in the business. Second, earnings have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. Savills has a number of positive attributes, but falls short of our ideal dividend company. It may be worth a look at the right price, though.

Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. Taking the debate a bit further, we've identified 1 warning sign for Savills that investors need to be conscious of moving forward.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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