Today we'll take a closer look at Falcon Minerals Corporation (NASDAQ:FLMN) 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 popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
With only a two-year payment history, and a 2.8% yield, investors probably think Falcon Minerals is not much of a dividend stock. Many of the best dividend stocks typically start out paying a low yield, so we wouldn't automatically cut it from our list of prospects. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Falcon Minerals's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Falcon Minerals for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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, Falcon Minerals paid out 193% 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.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Falcon Minerals paid out 55% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Falcon Minerals fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Falcon Minerals' financial position here.
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. It has only been paying dividends for a few short years, and the dividend has already been cut at least once. This is one income stream we're not ready to live on. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.9 in 2019, compared to US$0.1 last year. As we can see, dividend payments have fallen heavily from where they were two years ago.
A shrinking dividend over a two-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.
Dividend Growth Potential
Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. Falcon Minerals' earnings per share have fallen -76% over the past year. This is a pretty serious concern, and it would be worth investigating whether something fundamental in the business has changed - or broken. We do note though, one year is too short a time to be drawing strong conclusions about a company's future prospects.
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 not keen on the fact that Falcon Minerals paid out such a high percentage of its income, although its cashflow is in better shape. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. Using these criteria, Falcon Minerals looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.
It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. For example, we've identified 3 warning signs for Falcon Minerals (1 is a bit unpleasant!) that you should be aware of before investing.
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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