Today we'll take a closer look at Ares Management Corporation (NYSE:ARES) 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 a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Ares Management is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. 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, Ares Management paid out 180% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Ares Management's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. Ares Management has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. It's good to see that Ares Management has been paying a dividend for a number of years. However, the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, and we're concerned that what has been cut once, could be cut again. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.7 in 2014, compared to US$1.9 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 15% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.
It's not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We're generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.
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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Ares Management has grown its earnings per share at 31% per annum over the past five years. The company has been growing its EPS at a very rapid rate, while paying out virtually all of its income as dividends. Generally, a company that is growing rapidly while paying out a majority of its earnings, is seeing its debt burden increase. We'd be conscious of any extra risk added by this practice.
We'd also point out that Ares Management issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Ares Management's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Ares Management might not be a bad business, but it doesn't show all of the characteristics we look for in a dividend stock.
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. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for Ares Management (of which 1 shouldn't be ignored!) you should know about.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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What are the risks and opportunities for Ares Management?
Earnings are forecast to grow 38.19% per year
Debt is not well covered by operating cash flow
Significant insider selling over the past 3 months
Profit margins (4.6%) are lower than last year (9.1%)
Large one-off items impacting financial results
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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