Today we’ll take a closer look at Brunswick Corporation (NYSE:BC) 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. 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.
A 1.5% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Brunswick has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 7.8% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Brunswick for its dividend, and we’ll go through these below.
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. Brunswick paid out 244% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Brunswick paid out 36% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It’s good to see that while Brunswick’s dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we’d be concerned. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.
Is Brunswick’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Brunswick’s dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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 is a measure of a company’s total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Brunswick has net debt of 1.09 times its EBITDA, which we think is not too troublesome.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. Brunswick has EBIT of 6.92 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Brunswick’s financial position here.
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. Brunswick 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 stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.05 in 2010, compared to US$0.96 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 34% per year over this time.
It’s rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over ten years and not had any notable cuts, but Brunswick 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. Brunswick’s earnings per share have shrunk at 30% a year over the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Brunswick’s earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.
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 a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Moreover, earnings have been shrinking. While the dividends have been fairly steady, we’d wonder for how much longer this will be sustainable if earnings continue to decline. Ultimately, Brunswick comes up short on our dividend analysis. It’s not that we think it is a bad company – just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.
Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.
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.
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. Thank you for reading.