Would Werner Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:WERN) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Dividend paying stocks like Werner Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:WERN) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason – some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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 slim 1.0% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Werner Enterprises could have potential. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 2.7% of its market capitalisation. 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.

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NasdaqGS:WERN Historical Dividend Yield, November 21st 2019
NasdaqGS:WERN Historical Dividend Yield, November 21st 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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, Werner Enterprises paid out 15% of its profit as dividends. We like this low payout ratio, because it implies the dividend is well covered and leaves ample opportunity for reinvestment.

We also measure dividends paid against a company’s levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Unfortunately, while Werner Enterprises pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it’s not ideal from a dividend perspective.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Werner Enterprises’s dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.20 in 2009, compared to US$0.36 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 6.1% a year over that time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

A reasonable rate of dividend growth is good to see, but we’re wary that the dividend history is not as solid as we’d like, having been cut at least once.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it’s great to see Werner Enterprises has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five years. Rapid earnings growth and a low payout ratio suggests this company has been effectively reinvesting in its business. Should that continue, this company could have a bright future.

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. Firstly, the company has a conservative payout ratio, although we’d note that its cashflow in the past year was substantially lower than its reported profit. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. While we’re not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Werner Enterprises out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 16 Werner Enterprises analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 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.

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