Today we'll take a closer look at Atrion Corporation (NASDAQ:ATRI) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
A 0.9% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Atrion has some staying power. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.
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 28% of Atrion's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Atrion paid out a conservative 39% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. 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.
With a strong net cash balance, Atrion investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Atrion's financial position here.
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. Atrion 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$1.20 in 2010, compared to US$6.20 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 18% a year over that time.
It's rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over ten years and not had any notable cuts, but Atrion has done it, which we really like.
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. Earnings have grown at around 8.3% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! It's good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term - assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.
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. It's great to see that Atrion is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. Overall, we think there are a lot of positives to Atrion from a dividend perspective.
Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Atrion management tenure, salary, and performance.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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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