Dividend paying stocks like Poly Property Group Co., Limited (HKG:119) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Poly Property Group. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Poly Property Group for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.
Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Poly Property Group paid out 83% 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.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Unfortunately, while Poly Property Group pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.
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. Poly Property Group has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was HK$0.04 in 2011, compared to HK$0.2 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 17% a year over that time. Poly Property Group's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 17% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.
So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.
Dividend Growth Potential
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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Poly Property Group has grown its earnings per share at 57% per annum over the past five years. The company pays out most of its earnings as dividends, although with such rapid EPS growth, its possible the dividend is better covered than it looks. Still, we'd be cautious about extrapolating high growth too far out into the future.
Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. First, we think Poly Property Group has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Poly Property Group out there.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. To that end, Poly Property Group has 3 warning signs (and 1 which doesn't sit too well with us) we think you should know about.
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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