Is The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s (TADAWUL:4030) 4.1% Dividend Sustainable?

Today we’ll take a closer look at The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (TADAWUL:4030) 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. 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.

In this case, National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.1% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. 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.

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SASE:4030 Historical Dividend Yield, January 30th 2020
SASE:4030 Historical Dividend Yield, January 30th 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 128% of National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s cash payout ratio in the last year was 33%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It’s good to see that while National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. 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.

Is National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia has net debt of 4.13 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors’ comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Interest cover of 2.26 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

Consider getting our latest analysis on National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s financial position here.

Dividend Volatility

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. National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having been cut one or more times over this time. Its most recent annual dividend was ر.س1.50 per share, effectively flat on its first payment ten years ago.

It’s good to see some dividend growth, but the dividend has been cut at least once, and the size of the cut would eliminate most of the growth, anyway. We’re not that enthused by this.

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? National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s EPS have fallen by approximately 13% per year during the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia’s earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

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. We’re not keen on the fact that National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. 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, National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia 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.

Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia management tenure, salary, and performance.

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

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.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.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.