Today we'll take a closer look at Hong Leong Industries Berhad (KLSE:HLIND) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend 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 Hong Leong Industries Berhad. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Hong Leong Industries Berhad for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects 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. 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. In the last year, Hong Leong Industries Berhad paid out 72% of its profit as dividends. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Hong Leong Industries Berhad paid out 32% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It's positive to see that Hong Leong Industries Berhad's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.
While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Hong Leong Industries Berhad's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.
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. Hong Leong Industries Berhad 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 RM0.2 in 2011, compared to RM0.4 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 7.7% per year over this time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 7.7% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate, but with at least one substantial cut in the payments, we're not certain this dividend stock would be ideal for someone intending to live on the income.
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? In the last five years, Hong Leong Industries Berhad's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 2.8% per annum. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn't automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we'd vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.
When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. First, we think Hong Leong Industries Berhad has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Hong Leong Industries Berhad from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
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. Taking the debate a bit further, we've identified 2 warning signs for Hong Leong Industries Berhad that investors need to be conscious of moving forward.
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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