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Today we’ll take a closer look at LSI Industries Inc. (NASDAQ:LYTS) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend 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 LSI Industries. We’d guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett’s two rules: 1) Don’t lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We’ll run through some checks below to help with this.
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 form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Although it reported a loss over the past 12 months, LSI Industries currently pays a dividend. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.
The company paid out 81% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is adequate, but reduces the wriggle room in the event of a downturn.
Is LSI Industries’s Balance Sheet Risky?
Given LSI Industries is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A quick way to check a company’s financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company’s total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. LSI Industries has net debt of 2.89 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA). Using debt can accelerate business growth, but also increases the risks.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. With EBIT of 1.94 times its interest expense, LSI Industries’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of LSI Industries’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. LSI Industries has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.20 per share, effectively flat on its first payment ten years ago.
It’s good to see some dividend growth, but the dividend has been cut at least once, and the size of the cut would eliminate most of the growth, anyway. We’re not that enthused by this.
Dividend Growth Potential
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 not great to see that LSI Industries’s have fallen at approximately 56% 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.
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. We’re not keen on the fact that LSI Industries paid dividends despite reporting a loss over the past year, although fortunately its dividend was covered by cash flow. Earnings per share are down, and LSI Industries’s dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Using these criteria, LSI Industries looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.
Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in LSI Industries in our latest insider ownership analysis.
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.