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Today we’ll take a closer look at SATS Ltd. (SGX:S58) 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 SATS. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. SATS paid out 85% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 97%, SATS’s dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. SATS paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn’t generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were SATS to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
We update our data on SATS every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. SATS 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 fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was S$0.11 in 2009, compared to S$0.19 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 5.6% a year over that time. SATS’s dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn’t grown 5.6% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.
It’s good to see the dividend growing at a decent rate, but the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. SATS might have put its house in order since then, but we remain cautious.
Dividend Growth Potential
Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Earnings have grown at around 6.7% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Past earnings growth has been decent, but unless this is one of those rare businesses that can grow without additional capital investment or marketing spend, we’d generally expect the higher payout ratio to limit its future growth prospects.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that SATS’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. SATS gets a pass on its dividend payout ratio, but it paid out virtually all of its cash flow as dividends. This may just be a one-off, but we’d keep an eye on this. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. With this information in mind, we think SATS may not be an ideal dividend stock.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 13 SATS analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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%.
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.
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.