Something To Consider Before Buying Autoliv, Inc. (NYSE:ALV) For The 3.0% Dividend

Could Autoliv, Inc. (NYSE:ALV) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to a company for its dividend. 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.

Investors might not know much about Autoliv’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last nine years and offers a 3.0% yield. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

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NYSE:ALV Historical Dividend Yield, April 16th 2019
NYSE:ALV Historical Dividend Yield, April 16th 2019

Payout ratios

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 be form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Autoliv paid out 57% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business – which could be good or bad.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Autoliv paid out 700% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is a risk if cash flows do not improve. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Autoliv’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. The first recorded dividend for Autoliv, in the last decade, was nine years ago. The dividend has been quite stable over the past nine years, which is great to see – although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.20 in 2010, compared to US$2.48 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.4% a year over that time.

Autoliv has been growing its dividend at a decent rate, and the payments have been stable despite the short payment history. This is a positive start.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It’s not great to see that Autoliv’s have fallen at approximately -3.2% over the past five years. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

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. First, we think Autoliv has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and the dividend history is shorter than we’d like. Using these criteria, Autoliv looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 24 Autoliv analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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 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. Thank you for reading.