Today we'll take a closer look at Xtep International Holdings Limited (HKG:1368) 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. 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.
In this case, Xtep International Holdings likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.2% 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. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Xtep International Holdings for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 59% of Xtep International Holdings' profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Xtep International Holdings paid out 82% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. 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.
With a strong net cash balance, Xtep International Holdings investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Xtep International Holdings' latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. Xtep International Holdings 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 CN¥0.2 in 2010, compared to CN¥0.1 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 4.8% per year over that time. Xtep International Holdings' dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 4.8% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.
We struggle to make a case for buying Xtep International Holdings for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past 10 years.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? Xtep International Holdings' earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. 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.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. First, we think Xtep International Holdings is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In summary, Xtep International Holdings has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. Taking the debate a bit further, we've identified 3 warning signs for Xtep International Holdings that investors need to be conscious of moving forward.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 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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