Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!
Today we’ll take a closer look at Jack in the Box Inc. (NASDAQ:JACK) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
Investors might not know much about Jack in the Box’s dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last five years and offers a 1.9% yield. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 11% 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.
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. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, Jack in the Box paid out 35% of its profit as dividends. This is medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Jack in the Box’s cash payout ratio in the last year was 42%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It’s encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don’t drop precipitously.
Is Jack in the Box’s Balance Sheet Risky?
As Jack in the Box 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 is a measure of a company’s total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Jack in the Box has net debt of more than 3x its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors’ comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.
We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Jack in the Box, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Jack in the Box’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. Looking at the data, we can see that Jack in the Box has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.80 in 2014, compared to US$1.60 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 15% a year over that time.
We’re not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.
Dividend Growth Potential
The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It’s good to see Jack in the Box has been growing its earnings per share at 19% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.
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. Firstly, we like that Jack in the Box has low and conservative payout ratios. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we’d like. Overall we think Jack in the Box scores well on our analysis. It’s not quite perfect, but we’d definitely be keen to take a closer look.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 15 analysts we track are forecasting for Jack in the Box for free with public 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.