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Dividend paying stocks like Independent Bank Corporation (NASDAQ:IBCP) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Independent Bank. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 2.9% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Independent Bank for its dividend, and we’ll focus on the most important aspects below.
Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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. Independent Bank paid out 38% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. Independent Bank has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.40 in 2009, compared to US$0.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 6.1% a year over that time.
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
The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient’s purchasing power. It’s not great to see that Independent Bank’s have fallen at approximately 22% over the past five years. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company’s dividend.
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. Firstly, we like that Independent Bank has a low and conservative payout ratio. 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. Independent Bank might not be a bad business, but it doesn’t show all of the characteristics we look for in a dividend stock.
Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 5 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.
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.