Today we’ll take a closer look at Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) from a dividend investor’s perspective. Owning a strong business 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.
A 2.7% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Corning has some staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 6.9% of the company’s market capitalisation at the time. 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. Corning paid out 29% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.
We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Corning paid out 175% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term. Corning 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 Corning to repeatedly pay dividends that aren’t well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Corning’s financial position here.
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. Corning 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$0.20 in 2009, compared to US$0.80 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 15% per year over this 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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Corning has grown its earnings per share at 14% per annum over the past five years. A company paying out less than a quarter of its earnings as dividends, and growing earnings at more than 10% per annum, looks to be right in the cusp of its growth phase. At the right price, we might be interested.
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. Corning has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. Overall we think Corning is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 12 Corning analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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.