Stock Analysis

Is Webster Financial Corporation (NYSE:WBS) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

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NYSE:WBS
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Is Webster Financial Corporation (NYSE:WBS) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

With Webster Financial yielding 3.8% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also returned around 2.1% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Webster Financial's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Webster Financial for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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NYSE:WBS Historic Dividend December 29th 2020

Payout ratios

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. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 60% of Webster Financial's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

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

Dividend Volatility

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. Webster Financial 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 this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.04 in 2010, compared to US$1.6 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 45% per year over this time.

It's rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over 10 years and not had any notable cuts, but Webster 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. Webster Financial has grown its earnings per share at 4.6% per annum over the past five years. Growth of 4.6% is relatively anaemic growth, which we wonder about. When a business is not growing, it often makes more sense to pay higher dividends to shareholders rather than retain the cash with no way to utilise it.

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. Webster Financial's payout ratio is within normal bounds. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. Webster Financial might not be a bad business, but it doesn't show all of the characteristics we look for in a dividend stock.

Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For instance, we've picked out 1 warning sign for Webster 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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