Dividend paying stocks like Celanese Corporation (NYSE:CE) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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.
While Celanese's 1.9% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 3.3% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Celanese for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Celanese paid out 50% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.
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, Celanese paid out 30% 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 Celanese's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. Celanese has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past 10-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.2 in 2010, compared to US$2.5 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 32% a year over that time.
It's rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over 10 years and not had any notable cuts, but Celanese has done it, which we really like.
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. Earnings have grown at around 7.5% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! The rate at which earnings have grown is quite decent, and by paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, the company is striking a reasonable balance between reinvestment and returns to shareholders.
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 think Celanese has an acceptable payout ratio and its dividend is well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. Celanese has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.
Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. As an example, we've identified 1 warning sign for Celanese that you should be aware of before investing.
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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