The board of Heritage Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:HFWA) has announced that it will pay a dividend of US$0.20 per share on the 18th of August. This makes the dividend yield 3.5%, which will augment investor returns quite nicely.
Heritage Financial's Payment Has Solid Earnings Coverage
While it is great to have a strong dividend yield, we should also consider whether the payment is sustainable. Before making this announcement, Heritage Financial was easily earning enough to cover the dividend. This means that most of its earnings are being retained to grow the business.
Over the next year, EPS is forecast to fall by 26.9%. Assuming the dividend continues along recent trends, we believe the payout ratio could be 46%, which we are pretty comfortable with and we think is feasible on an earnings basis.
Although the company has a long dividend history, it has been cut at least once in the last 10 years. Since 2011, the first annual payment was US$0.12, compared to the most recent full-year payment of US$0.80. This means that it has been growing its distributions at 21% per annum over that time. It is great to see strong growth in the dividend payments, but cuts are concerning as it may indicate the payout policy is too ambitious.
The Dividend Looks Likely To Grow
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. It's encouraging to see Heritage Financial has been growing its earnings per share at 17% a year over the past five years. Growth in EPS bodes well for the dividend, as does the low payout ratio that the company is currently reporting.
Heritage Financial Looks Like A Great Dividend Stock
In summary, it is good to see that the dividend is staying consistent, and we don't think there is any reason to suspect this might change over the medium term. The company is generating plenty of cash, and the earnings also quite easily cover the distributions. However, it is worth noting that the earnings are expected to fall over the next year, which may not change the long term outlook, but could affect the dividend payment in the next 12 months. Taking this all into consideration, this looks like it could be a good dividend opportunity.
Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. Just as an example, we've come across 4 warning signs for Heritage Financial you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit unpleasant. We have also put together a list of global stocks with a solid dividend.
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