Is HollyFrontier Corporation (NYSE:HFC) A Good Dividend Stock?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
March 28, 2021
NYSE:HFC

Is HollyFrontier Corporation (NYSE:HFC) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

In this case, HollyFrontier likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.8% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, HollyFrontier'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 offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on HollyFrontier!

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NYSE:HFC Historic Dividend March 28th 2021

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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. While HollyFrontier pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.

HollyFrontier paid out 180% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely.

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

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of HollyFrontier's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut on at least one occasion historically. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.3 in 2011, compared to US$1.4 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 17% a year over that time. HollyFrontier's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 17% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? HollyFrontier's earnings per share have been essentially flat over the past five years. Flat earnings per share are acceptable for a time, but over the long term, the purchasing power of the company's dividends could be eroded by inflation. HollyFrontier is paying out less than half of its earnings, which we like. However, earnings per share are unfortunately not growing much. Might this suggest that the company should pay a higher dividend instead?

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. HollyFrontier's dividend is not well covered by free cash flow, plus it paid a dividend while being unprofitable. Second, earnings have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with HollyFrontier from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.

Investors generally tend to favour companies with a consistent, stable dividend policy as opposed to those operating an irregular one. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. Just as an example, we've come accross 3 warning signs for HollyFrontier you should be aware of, and 1 of them shouldn't be ignored.

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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