Baxter International Inc. (NYSE:BAX) Has Got What It Takes To Be An Attractive Dividend Stock

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Today we’ll take a closer look at Baxter International Inc. (NYSE:BAX) 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.

A slim 1.1% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Baxter International could have potential. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 5.6% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. 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 Baxter International!
NYSE:BAX Historical Dividend Yield, May 10th 2019
NYSE:BAX Historical Dividend Yield, May 10th 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. So we need to be form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Baxter International paid out 25% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Baxter International paid out 28% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Baxter International’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Baxter International’s dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.04 in 2009, compared to US$0.88 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately -1.7% per year over that time. Baxter International’s dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn’t fallen by -1.7% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it’s even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing – it’s not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Baxter International has grown its earnings per share at 39% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.

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. First, we like that the company’s dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. All things considered, Baxter International looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 15 Baxter International analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

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.