Could Norsk Hydro ASA (OB:NHY) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
A slim 2.6% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Norsk Hydro could have potential. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Norsk Hydro 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Norsk Hydro paid out 68% 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. Norsk Hydro paid out a conservative 36% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. 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 Norsk Hydro's financial position here.
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 Norsk Hydro's dividend 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 kr0.5 in 2011, compared to kr1.3 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 9.6% per year over this time. Norsk Hydro's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 9.6% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical 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? Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Norsk Hydro has grown its earnings per share at 13% per annum over the past five years. Norsk Hydro's earnings per share have grown rapidly in recent years, although more than half of its profits are being paid out as dividends, which makes us wonder if the company has a limited number of reinvestment opportunities in its business.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Norsk Hydro's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think Norsk Hydro has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. 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. Norsk Hydro has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For example, we've picked out 3 warning signs for Norsk Hydro that investors should know about before committing capital to this stock.
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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