Is BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Limited (HKG:2388) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.
In this case, BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) likely looks attractive to investors, given its 6.4% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) paid out 50% 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.
We update our data on BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of BOC Hong Kong (Holdings)'s dividend 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 HK$1.1 in 2010, compared to HK$1.5 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 3.0% per year over this time. BOC Hong Kong (Holdings)'s dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 3.0% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.
Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company's earnings are not consistent.
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. BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) has grown its earnings per share at 6.6% per annum over the past five years. The rate at which earnings have grown is quite decent, and by paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, the company is striking a reasonable balance between reinvestment and returns to shareholders.
We'd also point out that BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that BOC Hong Kong (Holdings)'s 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 BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) has an acceptable payout ratio. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. In summary, we're unenthused by BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) as a dividend stock. It's not that we think it is a bad company; it simply falls short of our criteria in some key areas.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. Case in point: We've spotted 2 warning signs for BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) (of which 1 is a bit unpleasant!) you should know about.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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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