U.S. Markets close in 53 mins

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD) Is Yielding 2.2% - But Is It A Buy?

Simply Wall St

Could Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A slim 2.2% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Air Products and Chemicals could have potential. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Air Products and Chemicals for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:APD Historical Dividend Yield, October 10th 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 58% of Air Products and Chemicals'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. Air Products and Chemicals paid out 125% of its free cash flow last year, which we think is concerning if cash flows do not improve. While Air Products and Chemicals's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, free cash flow is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Air Products and Chemicals to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Air Products and Chemicals's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. Air Products and Chemicals 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$1.76 in 2009, compared to US$4.64 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 10% per year over this time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Air Products and Chemicals has grown its earnings per share at 10% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing rapidly, but given that it is paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, we wonder how Air Products and Chemicals will keep funding its growth projects in the future.

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. First, the company has a payout ratio that was within an average range for most dividend stocks, but it paid out virtually all of its generated cash flow. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Air Products and Chemicals out there.

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 Air Products and Chemicals for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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