Today we'll take a closer look at ACEA S.p.A. (BIT:ACE) 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. 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.
With ACEA yielding 4.6% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this 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. 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. ACEA paid out 59% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Unfortunately, while ACEA 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.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of ACEA's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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 ACEA's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was €0.3 in 2010, compared to €0.8 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% a year over that 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.
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
With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Earnings have grown at around 8.7% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share are growing at an acceptable rate, although the company is paying out more than half of its profits, which we think could constrain its ability to reinvest in its business.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that ACEA's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, the company has a payout ratio that was within an average range for most dividend stocks, but it paid out virtually all of its generated 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 ACEA 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. Case in point: We've spotted 3 warning signs for ACEA (of which 1 is potentially serious!) 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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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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