Dividend paying stocks like Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM) 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. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.
A 1.9% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Waste Management has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.8% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.
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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Waste Management paid out 60% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Waste Management's cash payout ratio in the last year was 43%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that Waste Management'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.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Waste Management's financial position here.
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. Waste Management 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$1.3 in 2010, compared to US$2.2 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 5.6% per year over this time.
Businesses that can grow their dividends at a decent rate and maintain a stable payout can generate substantial wealth for shareholders over the long term.
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 4.8% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! 4.8% per annum is not a particularly high rate of growth, which we find curious. If the company is struggling to grow, perhaps that's why it elects to pay out more than half of its earnings to shareholders.
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, we think Waste Management has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Earnings growth has been limited, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. Overall we think Waste Management 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. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. As an example, we've identified 2 warning signs for Waste Management that you should be aware of before investing.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 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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