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Absolute Software Corporation (TSE:ABT) Investors Should Think About This Before Buying It For Its Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is Absolute Software Corporation (TSE:ABT) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

In this case, Absolute Software likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 4.1% dividend yield and seven-year payment history. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Absolute Software for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

TSX:ABT Historical Dividend Yield, November 2nd 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, Absolute Software paid out 132% 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.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Absolute Software paid out 137% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. 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. As Absolute Software's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.

With a strong net cash balance, Absolute Software investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

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

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. Absolute Software has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we're cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.19 in 2012, compared to US$0.24 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 3.3% per year over this 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.

It's good to see some dividend growth, but the dividend has been cut at least once, and the size of the cut would eliminate most of the growth, anyway. We're not that enthused by this.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in 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 Absolute Software has grown its earnings per share at 17% per annum over the past five years. With a payout ratio of 132%, Absolute Software is paying out dividends substantially greater than what it earned in profit.

We'd also point out that Absolute Software issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.

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. Absolute Software paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. 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. In summary, Absolute Software has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 6 analysts we track are forecasting for Absolute Software 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.