Is Leggett & Platt, Incorporated (NYSE:LEG) A Smart Pick For Income Investors?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 02, 2021
NYSE:LEG

Today we'll take a closer look at Leggett & Platt, Incorporated (NYSE:LEG) 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.

With Leggett & Platt yielding 3.4% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Leggett & Platt for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

historic-dividend
NYSE:LEG Historic Dividend April 2nd 2021

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 88% of Leggett & Platt's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. It's paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Leggett & Platt paid out a conservative 39% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. It's positive to see that Leggett & Platt'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.

We update our data on Leggett & Platt 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. Leggett & Platt 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 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.0 in 2011, compared to US$1.6 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 4.4% per year over this time.

Dividends have grown relatively slowly, which is not great, but some investors may value the relative consistency of the dividend.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Leggett & Platt's EPS have declined at around 4.5% a year. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

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. First, we think Leggett & Platt has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings per share have actually shrunk, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Leggett & Platt 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.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. As an example, we've identified 2 warning signs for Leggett & Platt 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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