Here’s How We Evaluate ACCO Brands Corporation’s (NYSE:ACCO) Dividend

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Dividend paying stocks like ACCO Brands Corporation (NYSE:ACCO) 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.

ACCO Brands has only been paying a dividend for a year or so, so investors might be curious about its 3.1% yield. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 9.9% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.

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NYSE:ACCO Historical Dividend Yield, June 12th 2019
NYSE:ACCO Historical Dividend Yield, June 12th 2019

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. ACCO Brands paid out 26% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. ACCO Brands paid out 63% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. It’s positive to see that ACCO Brands’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.

Is ACCO Brands’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As ACCO Brands has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company’s total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company’s ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of above 3x EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Net interest cover of 5.67 times its interest expense appears reasonable for ACCO Brands, although we’re conscious that even high interest cover doesn’t make a company bulletproof.

We update our data on ACCO Brands every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

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. With a payment history of less than 2 years, we think it’s a bit too soon to think about living on the income from its dividend. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.24 per share, effectively flat on its first payment one years ago.

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. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. ACCO Brands has grown its earnings per share at 6.3% per annum over the past five years. It’s good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term – assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.

Conclusion

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. Firstly, we like that ACCO Brands pays out a low fraction of earnings. It pays out a higher percentage of its cashflow, although this is within acceptable bounds. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we’d like. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about ACCO Brands from a dividend perspective. It’s not that we think it’s a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 6 ACCO Brands analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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 editorial-team@simplywallst.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.