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Is ASX Limited (ASX:ASX) A Great Dividend Stock?

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Is ASX Limited (ASX:ASX) 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 popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A slim 3.0% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, ASX could have potential. 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.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

ASX:ASX Historical Dividend Yield March 30th 2020
ASX:ASX Historical Dividend Yield March 30th 2020

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. ASX paid out 90% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. Paying out a majority of its earnings limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate a commitment to paying a dividend, or a dearth of investment opportunities.

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

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of ASX's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was AU$1.49 in 2010, compared to AU$2.31 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.5% a year over that time.

Slow and steady dividend growth might not sound that exciting, but dividends have been stable for ten years, which we think is seriously impressive.

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. Earnings have grown at around 5.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Past earnings growth has been decent, but unless this is one of those rare businesses that can grow without additional capital investment or marketing spend, we'd generally expect the higher payout ratio to limit its future growth prospects.

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. ASX's payout ratio is within an average range for most market participants. Earnings per share growth has been slow, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. In summary, we're unenthused by ASX as a dividend stock. It's not that we think it is a bad company; it simply falls short of our criteria in some key areas.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. Still, investors need to consider a host of other factors, apart from dividend payments, when analysing a company. Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from competition or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company. Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 11 ASX 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%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.