Don't Buy Telecom Service One Holdings Limited (HKG:3997) For Its Next Dividend Without Doing These Checks

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 04, 2021
SEHK:3997
Source: Shutterstock

Telecom Service One Holdings Limited (HKG:3997) stock is about to trade ex-dividend in three days. The ex-dividend date occurs one day before the record date which is the day on which shareholders need to be on the company's books in order to receive a dividend. It is important to be aware of the ex-dividend date because any trade on the stock needs to have been settled on or before the record date. This means that investors who purchase Telecom Service One Holdings' shares on or after the 9th of September will not receive the dividend, which will be paid on the 20th of September.

The company's next dividend payment will be HK$0.02 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed HK$0.08 to shareholders. Looking at the last 12 months of distributions, Telecom Service One Holdings has a trailing yield of approximately 6.2% on its current stock price of HK$1.29. If you buy this business for its dividend, you should have an idea of whether Telecom Service One Holdings's dividend is reliable and sustainable. So we need to check whether the dividend payments are covered, and if earnings are growing.

See our latest analysis for Telecom Service One Holdings

Dividends are typically paid out of company income, so if a company pays out more than it earned, its dividend is usually at a higher risk of being cut. Telecom Service One Holdings paid out 107% of its earnings, which is more than we're comfortable with, unless there are mitigating circumstances. That said, even highly profitable companies sometimes might not generate enough cash to pay the dividend, which is why we should always check if the dividend is covered by cash flow. Telecom Service One Holdings paid out more free cash flow than it generated - 177%, to be precise - last year, which we think is concerningly high. It's hard to consistently pay out more cash than you generate without either borrowing or using company cash, so we'd wonder how the company justifies this payout level.

Telecom Service One Holdings does have a large net cash position on the balance sheet, which could fund large dividends for a time, if the company so chose. Still, smart investors know that it is better to assess dividends relative to the cash and profit generated by the business. Paying dividends out of cash on the balance sheet is not long-term sustainable.

Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Telecom Service One Holdings's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

Click here to see how much of its profit Telecom Service One Holdings paid out over the last 12 months.

historic-dividend
SEHK:3997 Historic Dividend September 5th 2021

Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?

Businesses with shrinking earnings are tricky from a dividend perspective. Investors love dividends, so if earnings fall and the dividend is reduced, expect a stock to be sold off heavily at the same time. Telecom Service One Holdings's earnings per share have fallen at approximately 17% a year over the previous five years. Ultimately, when earnings per share decline, the size of the pie from which dividends can be paid, shrinks.

The main way most investors will assess a company's dividend prospects is by checking the historical rate of dividend growth. Telecom Service One Holdings has seen its dividend decline 15% per annum on average over the past seven years, which is not great to see. While it's not great that earnings and dividends per share have fallen in recent years, we're encouraged by the fact that management has trimmed the dividend rather than risk over-committing the company in a risky attempt to maintain yields to shareholders.

To Sum It Up

Is Telecom Service One Holdings worth buying for its dividend? It's looking like an unattractive opportunity, with its earnings per share declining, while, paying out an uncomfortably high percentage of both its profits (107%) and cash flow as dividends. This is a starkly negative combination that often suggests a dividend cut could be in the company's near future. It's not an attractive combination from a dividend perspective, and we're inclined to pass on this one for the time being.

Although, if you're still interested in Telecom Service One Holdings and want to know more, you'll find it very useful to know what risks this stock faces. For instance, we've identified 5 warning signs for Telecom Service One Holdings (2 are a bit unpleasant) you should be aware of.

If you're in the market for dividend stocks, we recommend checking our list of top dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.

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