Here’s How We Evaluate Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) Dividend

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Is Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company’s dividend doesn’t live up to expectations.

A 2.7% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Johnson & Johnson has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 1.5% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Johnson & Johnson for its dividend, and we’ll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Johnson & Johnson!
NYSE:JNJ Historical Dividend Yield, May 13th 2019
NYSE:JNJ Historical Dividend Yield, May 13th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 66% of Johnson & Johnson’s profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business – which could be good or bad.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Johnson & Johnson paid out 51% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which does not seem unusual.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Johnson & Johnson’s financial position here.

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. Johnson & Johnson 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$1.96 in 2009, compared to US$3.80 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 6.8% a year over that time.

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 2.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Growth of 2.2% is relatively anaemic growth, which we wonder about. When a business is not growing, it often makes more sense to pay higher dividends to shareholders rather than retain the cash with no way to utilise it.

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. Johnson & Johnson’s is paying out more than half its income as dividends, but at least the dividend is covered both by reported earnings and cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Johnson & Johnson from a dividend perspective. It’s not that we think it’s a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 19 analysts we track are forecasting for Johnson & Johnson for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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