Is Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, Inc. (NYSE:HASI) A Good Dividend Stock?

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Today we’ll take a closer look at Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, Inc. (NYSE:HASI) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong dividend company and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.

In this case, Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 5.0% dividend yield and six-year payment history. It sure looks interesting on these metrics – but there’s always more to the story . Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we’ll go through this below.

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NYSE:HASI Historical Dividend Yield, May 1st 2019
NYSE:HASI Historical Dividend Yield, May 1st 2019

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. 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, Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital paid out 175% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 121%, Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital’s dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow.

It is worth considering that Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). REITs have different rules governing their payments, and are often required to pay out a high portion of their earnings to investors.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital’s latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

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. Looking at the data, we can see that Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital has been paying a dividend for the past six years. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a while now, which is great. However we’d prefer to see consistency for a few more years before giving it our full seal of approval. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.24 in 2013, compared to US$1.34 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 33% a year over that time.

We’re not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it’s also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It’s good to see Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital has been growing its earnings per share at 48% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have been growing very rapidly, although the company is also paying out virtually all of its profit in dividends. While EPS could grow fast enough to make the dividend sustainable, in this type of situation, we’d want to pay extra attention to any fragilities in the company’s balance sheet.

We’d also point out that Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Trying to grow the dividend when issuing new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus – perpetually pushing a boulder uphill. Companies that consistently issue new shares are often suboptimal from a dividend perspective.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company’s dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we’d like. With this information in mind, we think Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital may not be an ideal dividend stock.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 7 analysts we track are forecasting for Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital 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 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.