Is Universal Corporation (NYSE:UVV) A Good Dividend Stock?

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Is Universal Corporation (NYSE:UVV) a good dividend stock? How would you know? A dividend paying company with growing earnings can be rewarding in the long term. 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.

In this case, Universal likely looks attractive to investors, given its 5.7% 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. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 0.8% of market capitalisation this year. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Universal!
NYSE:UVV Historical Dividend Yield, May 5th 2019
NYSE:UVV Historical Dividend Yield, May 5th 2019

Payout ratios

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. Looking at the data, we can see that 68% of Universal’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business – which could be good or bad.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Last year, Universal paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

We update our data on Universal 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. Universal has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.84 in 2009, compared to US$3.00 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 5.0% a year over that time.

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 Universal’s have fallen at approximately 4.0% 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.

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. Universal gets a pass on its dividend payout ratio, but it paid out virtually all of its cash flow as dividends. This may just be a one-off, but we’d keep an eye on this. Moreover, earnings have been shrinking. While the dividends have been fairly steady, we’d wonder for how much longer this will be sustainable if earnings continue to decline. With this information in mind, we think Universal may not be an ideal dividend stock.

See if management have put their money where their mouth is, by checking insider shareholdings in Universal stock.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.