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Should Bowl America Incorporated (NYSEMKT:BWL.A) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Bowl America Incorporated (NYSEMKT:BWL.A) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

In this case, Bowl America likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.9% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Bowl America for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

AMEX:BWL.A Historical Dividend Yield, June 17th 2019

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. 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. Bowl America paid out 106% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Bowl America paid out 109% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. As Bowl America's dividend was not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would be concerned that this dividend could be at risk over the long term.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Bowl America'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. Bowl America has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of 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 US$0.62 in 2009, compared to US$0.70 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 1.2% a year over that time.

While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.

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. It's good to see Bowl America has been growing its earnings per share at 18% a year over the past 5 years. Although earnings per share are up nicely Bowl America is paying out 106% of its earnings as dividends, which we feel is borderline unsustainable without extenuating circumstances.

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. Bowl America paid out almost all of its cash flow and profit as dividends, leaving little to reinvest in the business. Next, growing earnings per share and steady dividend payments is a great combination. Ultimately, Bowl America 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.

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

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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.