Could La-Z-Boy Incorporated (NYSE:LZB) Have The Makings Of Another Dividend Aristocrat?

Is La-Z-Boy Incorporated (NYSE:LZB) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it’s important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

A 1.5% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests La-Z-Boy has some staying power. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 0.8% of market capitalisation this year. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett’s two rules: 1) Don’t lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We’ll run through some checks below to help with this.

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NYSE:LZB Historical Dividend Yield, October 21st 2019
NYSE:LZB Historical Dividend Yield, October 21st 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 35% of La-Z-Boy’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.

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, La-Z-Boy paid out 26% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It’s positive to see that La-Z-Boy’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.

With a strong net cash balance, La-Z-Boy investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well – nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of La-Z-Boy’s dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.08 in 2009, compared to US$0.52 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 21% per year over this time. The dividends haven’t grown at precisely 21% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing – it’s not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. La-Z-Boy has grown its earnings per share at 5.5% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a credible rate. What’s more, the payout ratio is reasonable and provides some protection to the dividend, or even the potential to increase it.

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. First, we like that the company’s dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is chequered – having cut its dividend at least once in the past. La-Z-Boy has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 4 La-Z-Boy analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates 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%.

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.