Stock Analysis

What Makes Baxter International Inc. (NYSE:BAX) A Great Dividend Stock?

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NYSE:BAX
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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. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

A slim 1.2% 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 equivalent to around 0.8% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Baxter International for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

historic-dividend
NYSE:BAX Historic Dividend March 16th 2021

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. 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 44% of Baxter International's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Baxter International paid out 41% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

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. Baxter International has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having been cut one or more times over this time. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.2 in 2011, compared to US$1.0 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 1.7% a year during that period. Baxter International's dividend hasn't shrunk linearly at 1.7% per annum, but the CAGR is a useful estimate of the historical rate of change.

A shrinking dividend over a 10-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

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. It's good to see Baxter International has been growing its earnings per share at 25% a year 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

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. 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. Overall we think Baxter International scores well on our analysis. It's not quite perfect, but we'd definitely be keen to take a closer look.

Companies possessing a stable dividend policy will likely enjoy greater investor interest than those suffering from a more inconsistent approach. At the same time, there are other factors our readers should be conscious of before pouring capital into a stock. For instance, we've picked out 2 warning signs for Baxter International that investors should take into consideration.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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What are the risks and opportunities for Baxter International?

Baxter International Inc., through its subsidiaries, develops and provides a portfolio of healthcare products worldwide.

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Rewards

  • Trading at 40% below our estimate of its fair value

  • Earnings are forecast to grow 64.46% per year

Risks

  • Debt is not well covered by operating cash flow

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