Could Kerry Logistics Network Limited (HKG:636) Have The Makings Of Another Dividend Aristocrat?

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Today we’ll take a closer look at Kerry Logistics Network Limited (HKG:636) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

With a 1.9% yield and a five-year payment history, investors probably think Kerry Logistics Network looks like a reliable dividend stock. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett’s two rules: 1) Don’t lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We’ll run through some checks below to help with this.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

SEHK:636 Historical Dividend Yield, June 15th 2019
SEHK:636 Historical Dividend Yield, June 15th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, then the dividend might become unsustainable – hardly an ideal situation. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company’s net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 17% of Kerry Logistics Network’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. We’d say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Last year, Kerry Logistics Network paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable. 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.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Kerry Logistics Network’s financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Kerry Logistics Network has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was HK$0.11 in 2014, compared to HK$0.25 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 18% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing pretty quickly, which could be enough to get us interested even though the dividend history is relatively short. Further research may be warranted.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient’s purchasing power. While there may be fluctuations in the past , Kerry Logistics Network’s earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation. So, we know earnings growth has been thin on the ground. However, the payout ratio is low, and some companies can deliver adequate dividend performance simply by increasing the payout ratio.

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 Kerry Logistics Network’s low dividend payout ratio, although we’re a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we’d like. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Kerry Logistics Network out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 9 Kerry Logistics Network 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.