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Would Allied Farmers Limited (NZSE:ALF) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

Is Allied Farmers Limited (NZSE:ALF) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

With only a two-year payment history, and a 2.9% yield, investors probably think Allied Farmers is not much of a dividend stock. While it may not look like much, if earnings are growing it could become quite interesting. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Allied Farmers for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Allied Farmers!

NZSE:ALF Historical Dividend Yield, September 9th 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, Allied Farmers paid out 26% of its profit as dividends. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Allied Farmers's cash payout ratio last year was 12%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Allied Farmers's financial position here.

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. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a few years now, but we'd like to see more evidence of consistency over a longer period. Its most recent annual dividend was NZ$0.02 per share, effectively flat on its first payment two years ago.

It's good to see at least some dividend growth. Yet with a relatively short dividend paying history, we wouldn't want to depend on this dividend too heavily.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Allied Farmers's EPS have declined at around 6.5% a year. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

We'd also point out that Allied Farmers 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

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Allied Farmers's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we like that the company's dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Second, the company has not been able to generate earnings growth, and its history of dividend payments too short for us to thoroughly evaluate the dividend's consistency across an economic cycle. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Allied Farmers out there.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Allied Farmers stock.

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.