Is CAI International, Inc. (NYSE:CAI) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
November 17, 2020
NYSE:CAI

Dividend paying stocks like CAI International, Inc. (NYSE:CAI) 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. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, CAI International's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on CAI International!

historic-dividend
NYSE:CAI Historic Dividend November 17th 2020

Payout ratios

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. 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. CAI International paid out 8.3% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. We like this low payout ratio, because it implies the dividend is well covered and leaves ample opportunity for reinvestment.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. CAI International paid out 9.3% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. It's positive to see that CAI International's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

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

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. This company has been paying a dividend for less than 2 years, which we think is too soon to consider it a reliable dividend stock. Its most recent annual dividend was US$1.0 per share.

Modest dividend growth is good to see, especially with the payments being relatively stable. However, the payment history is relatively short and we wouldn't want to rely on this dividend too much.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if 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. CAI International's earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company's dividends could be eroded by inflation. Growth has been hard to come by. However, the payout ratio is low, and some companies can deliver adequate dividend performance simply by increasing the payout ratio.

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. Firstly, we like that CAI International has low and conservative payout ratios. Second, the company has not been able to generate earnings growth, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we consider ideal (from a reliability perspective). Overall we think CAI International is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. To that end, CAI International has 5 warning signs (and 1 which is significant) we think you should know about.

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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