EC Healthcare (HKG:2138) Is Reducing Its Dividend To HK$0.042

June 26, 2022
  •  Updated
July 14, 2022
Source: Shutterstock

EC Healthcare's (HKG:2138) dividend is being reduced to HK$0.042 on the 20th of September. This payment takes the dividend yield to 1.8%, which only provides a modest boost to overall returns.

Check out our latest analysis for EC Healthcare

EC Healthcare's Payment Has Solid Earnings Coverage

Even a low dividend yield can be attractive if it is sustained for years on end. Prior to this announcement, EC Healthcare's dividend made up quite a large proportion of earnings but only 27% of free cash flows. This leaves plenty of cash for reinvestment into the business.

Over the next year, EPS is forecast to expand by 134.6%. Under the assumption that the dividend will continue along recent trends, we think the payout ratio could be 45% which would be quite comfortable going to take the dividend forward.

SEHK:2138 Historic Dividend June 26th 2022

EC Healthcare's Dividend Has Lacked Consistency

It's comforting to see that EC Healthcare has been paying a dividend for a number of years now, however it has been cut at least once in that time. This suggests that the dividend might not be the most reliable. Since 2016, the first annual payment was HK$0.019, compared to the most recent full-year payment of HK$0.14. This implies that the company grew its distributions at a yearly rate of about 40% over that duration. EC Healthcare has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, so we would be cautious about buying this stock solely for the dividend income.

The Dividend's Growth Prospects Are Limited

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. In the last five years, EC Healthcare's earnings per share has shrunk at approximately 4.2% per annum. Declining earnings will inevitably lead to the company paying a lower dividend in line with lower profits. Earnings are forecast to grow over the next 12 months and if that happens we could still be a little bit cautious until it becomes a pattern.

Our Thoughts On EC Healthcare's Dividend

Overall, the dividend looks like it may have been a bit high, which explains why it has now been cut. In the past, the payments have been unstable, but over the short term the dividend could be reliable, with the company generating enough cash to cover it. We would probably look elsewhere for an income investment.

Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. As an example, we've identified 1 warning sign for EC Healthcare that you should be aware of before investing. Is EC Healthcare not quite the opportunity you were looking for? Why not check out our selection of top dividend stocks.

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