What Makes Houlihan Lokey, Inc. (NYSE:HLI) A Great Dividend Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
October 03, 2020
NYSE:HLI

Dividend paying stocks like Houlihan Lokey, Inc. (NYSE:HLI) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

Investors might not know much about Houlihan Lokey's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last five years and offers a 2.2% yield. A 2.2% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Houlihan Lokey for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Houlihan Lokey!

historic-dividend
NYSE:HLI Historic Dividend October 3rd 2020

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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. In the last year, Houlihan Lokey paid out 42% of its profit as dividends. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Houlihan Lokey's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. Houlihan Lokey has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.6 in 2015, compared to US$1.3 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 17% per year over this time.

Houlihan Lokey has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

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 Houlihan Lokey has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five 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.

We'd also point out that Houlihan Lokey 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.

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. Firstly, we like that Houlihan Lokey has a low and conservative payout ratio. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. Overall we think Houlihan Lokey is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. Taking the debate a bit further, we've identified 2 warning signs for Houlihan Lokey that investors need to be conscious of moving forward.

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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