Is Henderson Land Development Company Limited (HKG:12) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

Could Henderson Land Development Company Limited (HKG:12) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

In this case, Henderson Land Development likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.7% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Henderson Land Development for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Henderson Land Development!

SEHK:12 Historical Dividend Yield, May 27th 2019
SEHK:12 Historical Dividend Yield, May 27th 2019

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Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to be form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Henderson Land Development paid out 25% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Henderson Land Development paid out 186% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term. Henderson Land Development paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn’t generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to Henderson Land Development’s ability to maintain its dividend.

Is Henderson Land Development’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Henderson Land Development has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company’s total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. With net debt of more than 5x EBITDA, Henderson Land Development could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we’d be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings downturn.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Henderson Land Development has interest cover of more than 12 times its interest expense, which we think is quite strong. Adequate interest cover may make this level of debt look safe, relative to companies with a lower interest cover ratio. However with so much net debt, we would be cautious of what could happen if interest rates rise.

We update our data on Henderson Land Development every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Henderson Land Development’s dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was HK$0.34 in 2009, compared to HK$1.80 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 18% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

It’s not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We’re generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

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? Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Henderson Land Development has grown its earnings per share at 14% per annum over the past five years. A company paying out less than a quarter of its earnings as dividends, and growing earnings at more than 10% per annum, looks to be right in the cusp of its growth phase. At the right price, we might be interested.

Conclusion

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 like Henderson Land Development’s low dividend payout ratio, although we’re a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see 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 Henderson Land Development out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 12 Henderson Land Development analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.