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Auckland International Airport Limited (NZSE:AIA) Is Yielding 2.5% - But Is It A Buy?

Simply Wall St

Could Auckland International Airport Limited (NZSE:AIA) 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. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

While Auckland International Airport's 2.5% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Auckland International Airport for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NZSE:AIA Historical Dividend Yield, December 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, Auckland International Airport paid out 51% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Auckland International Airport paid out 155% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out such a high percentage of cash flow suggests that the dividend was funded from either cash at bank or by borrowing, neither of which is desirable over the long term. Auckland International Airport paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were Auckland International Airport to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Is Auckland International Airport's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Auckland International Airport has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Auckland International Airport has net debt of 4.05 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors' comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Net interest cover of 5.83 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Auckland International Airport, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Auckland International Airport's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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 Auckland International Airport's dividend payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.069 in 2009, compared to NZ$0.23 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 13% a year over that 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.

Auckland International Airport has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.

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? It's good to see Auckland International Airport has been growing its earnings per share at 21% a year over the past five years. With recent, rapid earnings per share growth and a payout ratio of 51%, this business looks like an interesting prospect if earnings are reinvested effectively.

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. 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 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. Ultimately, Auckland International Airport comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 8 Auckland International Airport analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

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 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.