Today we'll take a closer look at First Commonwealth Financial Corporation (NYSE:FCF) 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.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for First Commonwealth Financial. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also returned around 1.5% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. That said, the recent jump in the share price will make First Commonwealth Financial's dividend yield look smaller, even though the company prospects could be improving. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying First Commonwealth Financial for its dividend, and we'll go through these 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. 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 58% of First Commonwealth Financial's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. 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.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of First Commonwealth Financial's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of First Commonwealth Financial's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.04 in 2011, compared to US$0.4 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 27% a year over that time.
It's rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over 10 years and not had any notable cuts, but First Commonwealth Financial has done it, which we really like.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Earnings have grown at around 6.1% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share are growing at an acceptable rate, although the company is paying out more than half of its profits, which we think could constrain its ability to reinvest in its business.
Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. First Commonwealth Financial's payout ratio is within normal bounds. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than First Commonwealth Financial out there.
Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. For instance, we've picked out 2 warning signs for First Commonwealth Financial that investors should take into consideration.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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