Stock Analysis

Should You Buy GO p.l.c. (MTSE:GO) For Its Dividend?

MTSE:GO
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Is GO p.l.c. (MTSE:GO) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for GO. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying GO for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on GO!

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MTSE:GO Historic Dividend December 31st 2020

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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 137% of GO's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. GO's cash payout ratio last year was 6.4%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and GO fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

Consider getting our latest analysis on GO'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. GO has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past 10 years. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was €0.1 in 2010, compared to €0.1 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 3.4% 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.

Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company's earnings are not consistent.

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? GO's EPS are effectively flat over the past five years. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Overall, GO falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for GO (of which 1 is a bit concerning!) you should know about.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

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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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