Does Extended Stay America, Inc. (NASDAQ:STAY) Have A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Is Extended Stay America, Inc. (NASDAQ:STAY) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

So you may wish to consider our analysis of Extended Stay America’s financial health, here.

In this case, Extended Stay America likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 6.3% dividend yield and six-year payment history. We’d agree the yield does look enticing. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.7% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Extended Stay America for its dividend, and we’ll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Extended Stay America!

NasdaqGS:STAY Historical Dividend Yield, September 17th 2019
NasdaqGS:STAY Historical Dividend Yield, September 17th 2019

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company’s net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 84% of Extended Stay America’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Extended Stay America paid out 87% of its cash flow last year. This may be sustainable but it does not leave much of a buffer for unexpected circumstances. 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 Extended Stay America’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Extended Stay America 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). Extended Stay America is carrying net debt of 3.80 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company’s net interest expense. With EBIT of 3.01 times its interest expense, Extended Stay America’s interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

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. Looking at the data, we can see that Extended Stay America has been paying a dividend for the past six years. The dividend has been quite stable over the past six years, which is great to see – although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.60 in 2013, compared to US$0.92 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 7.4% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing at a reasonable rate, which we like. We’re conscious though that one of the best ways to detect a multi-decade consistent dividend-payer, is to watch a company pay dividends for 20 years – a distinction Extended Stay America has not achieved yet.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Extended Stay America has grown its earnings per share at 18% per annum over the past five years. EPS are growing rapidly, although the company is also paying out more than three-quarters of its profits as dividends. If earnings keep growing, the dividend may be sustainable, but generally we’d prefer to see a fast growing company reinvest in further growth.

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. Extended Stay America’s is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered by both reported earnings and cashflow. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we’d like. Ultimately, Extended Stay America 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.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 9 analysts we track are forecasting for Extended Stay America 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 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.