Is Westlake Chemical Corporation (NYSE:WLK) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it’s common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
A 1.6% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Westlake Chemical has some staying power. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 1.3% 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.
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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. 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. In the last year, Westlake Chemical paid out 16% of its profit as dividends. Given the low payout ratio, it is hard to envision the dividend coming under threat, barring a catastrophe.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Westlake Chemical’s cash payout ratio last year was 21%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Westlake Chemical’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. Westlake Chemical 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$0.11 in 2009, compared to US$1.00 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 25% 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. Earnings have grown at around 5.7% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! With a decent amount of growth and a low payout ratio, we think this bodes well for Westlake Chemical’s prospects of growing its dividend payments in the future.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Westlake Chemical’s dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we like that the company’s dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Earnings growth has been limited, but we like that the dividend payments have been fairly consistent. All things considered, Westlake Chemical looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.
Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 14 analysts we track are forecasting for Westlake Chemical for free with public 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.