Key Things To Consider Before Buying The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) For Its Dividend

Could The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. 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 2.0% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Walt Disney could have potential. Remember that the recent share price drop will make Walt Disney’s yield look higher, even though recent events might have impacted the company’s prospects. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett’s two rules: 1) Don’t lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We’ll run through some checks below to help with this.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Walt Disney!

NYSE:DIS Historical Dividend Yield, March 23rd 2020
NYSE:DIS Historical Dividend Yield, March 23rd 2020

Payout ratios

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. So we need to form a view on if a company’s dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Walt Disney paid out 31% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 263%, Walt Disney’s dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Walt Disney paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn’t generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Walt Disney to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Is Walt Disney’s Balance Sheet Risky?

As Walt Disney has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 2.56 times its EBITDA, Walt Disney’s debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company’s net interest expense. Net interest cover of 9.64 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Walt Disney, although we’re conscious that even high interest cover doesn’t make a company bulletproof.

We update our data on Walt Disney every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

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. Walt Disney 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 ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.35 in 2010, compared to US$1.76 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 18% a year over that time.

It’s rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over ten years and not had any notable cuts, but Walt Disney has done it, which we really like.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend’s purchasing power over the long term. Earnings have grown at around 5.5% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! It’s good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term – assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Walt Disney’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 Walt Disney’s low dividend payout ratio, although we’re a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Walt Disney out there.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is to one to which is more unpredictable. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. Just as an example, we’ve come accross 4 warning signs for Walt Disney you should be aware of, and 1 of them is a bit unpleasant.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.