Dividend paying stocks like SpareBank 1 SMN (OB:MING) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Unfortunately, it’s common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for SpareBank 1 SMN. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 2.2% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying SpareBank 1 SMN for its dividend, and we’ll go through these 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. 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 40% of SpareBank 1 SMN’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of SpareBank 1 SMN’s dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was kr1.67 in 2009, compared to kr5.10 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 12% a year over that time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 12% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.
SpareBank 1 SMN has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.
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 3.6% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! A payout ratio below 50% leaves ample room to reinvest in the business, and provides finanical flexibility. Earnings per share growth have grown slowly, which is not great, but if the retained earnings can be reinvested effectively, future growth may be stronger.
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 glad to see SpareBank 1 SMN has a low payout ratio, as this suggests earnings are being reinvested in the business. Unfortunately, the company has not been able to generate earnings per share growth, and cut its dividend at least once in the past. In summary, we’re unenthused by SpareBank 1 SMN as a dividend stock. It’s not that we think it is a bad company; it simply falls short of our criteria in some key areas.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 5 analysts we track are forecasting for SpareBank 1 SMN for free with public 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%.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.