Here's How We Evaluate Hess Midstream LP's (NYSE:HESM) Dividend

By
Simply Wall St
Published
February 28, 2021
NYSE:HESM
Source: Shutterstock

Today we'll take a closer look at Hess Midstream LP (NYSE:HESM) 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 stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

With a four-year payment history and a 8.5% yield, many investors probably find Hess Midstream intriguing. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Hess Midstream for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

historic-dividend
NYSE:HESM Historic Dividend March 1st 2021

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. 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 132% of Hess Midstream's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Hess Midstream's cash payout ratio last year was 9.3%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and Hess Midstream 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.

We update our data on Hess Midstream every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Looking at the data, we can see that Hess Midstream has been paying a dividend for the past four years. The dividend has not fluctuated much, but with a relatively short payment history, we can't be sure this is sustainable across a full market cycle. During the past four-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.2 in 2017, compared to US$1.8 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 10% per year over this time.

Hess Midstream 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

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. It's good to see Hess Midstream has been growing its earnings per share at 21% a year over the past three years. The company has been growing its EPS at a very rapid rate, while paying out virtually all of its income as dividends. While EPS could grow fast enough to make the dividend sustainable, in this type of situation, we'd want to pay extra attention to any fragilities in the company's balance sheet.

Conclusion

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 a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. Ultimately, Hess Midstream 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.

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. Case in point: We've spotted 4 warning signs for Hess Midstream (of which 2 are potentially serious!) you should know about.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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