Read This Before Buying Clarkson PLC (LON:CKN) For Its Dividend

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Today we’ll take a closer look at Clarkson PLC (LON:CKN) 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 the income from dividends, it’s important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Clarkson is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Clarkson for its dividend, and we’ll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis
LSE:CKN Historical Dividend Yield, May 13th 2019
LSE:CKN Historical Dividend Yield, May 13th 2019

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 be form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Clarkson paid out 76% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Clarkson paid out 136% of its free cash last year. Cash flows can be lumpy, but paying out this much cash is not ideal. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely.

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

We update our data on Clarkson every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. The first recorded dividend for Clarkson, in the last decade, was nine years ago. The dividend has been quite stable over the past nine years, which is great to see – although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.43 in 2010, compared to UK£0.75 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 6.4% a year over that time.

Clarkson has been growing its dividend at a decent rate, and the payments have been stable despite the short payment history. This is a positive start.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Clarkson has grown its earnings per share at 3.8% per annum over the past five years. There are exceptions, but limited earnings growth and a high payout ratio can signal that a company is struggling to grow. When a company prefers to pay out cash to its shareholders instead of reinvesting it, this can often say a lot about that company’s dividend prospects.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Clarkson’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. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and we think it has not been paying dividends long enough to demonstrate resilience across economic cycles. With this information in mind, we think Clarkson may not be an ideal dividend stock.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 4 Clarkson analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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.