Dividend paying stocks like Synchrony Financial (NYSE:SYF) 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. 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 2.2% yield and a five-year payment history, investors probably think Synchrony Financial looks like a reliable dividend stock. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 4.2% of its market capitalisation. 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.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. In the last year, Synchrony Financial paid out 39% of its profit as dividends. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Synchrony Financial'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. Synchrony Financial has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.5 in 2016, compared to US$0.9 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 11% per year over this time.
Synchrony Financial 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. It's not great to see that Synchrony Financial's have fallen at approximately 3.0% over the past five years. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.
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. We're glad to see Synchrony Financial has a low payout ratio, as this suggests earnings are being reinvested in the business. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and the dividend history is shorter than we'd like. Synchrony Financial might not be a bad business, but it doesn't show all of the characteristics we look for in a dividend stock.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. As an example, we've identified 3 warning signs for Synchrony Financial that you should be aware of before investing.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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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