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Is Brenntag AG (ETR:BNR) An Attractive Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

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Is Brenntag AG (ETR:BNR) 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.

Investors might not know much about Brenntag's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last eight years and offers a 2.8% yield. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Brenntag for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Brenntag!

XTRA:BNR Historical Dividend Yield, July 20th 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. Brenntag paid out 40% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. 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.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Brenntag paid out 46% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. 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.

Is Brenntag's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Brenntag has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and 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. Brenntag has net debt of 2.03 times its EBITDA. Using debt can accelerate business growth, but also increases the risks.

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 8.35 times its interest expense appears reasonable for Brenntag, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

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

Dividend Volatility

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. The first recorded dividend for Brenntag, in the last decade, was eight years ago. Its dividend has not fluctuated much that time, which we like, but we're conscious that the company might not yet have a track record of maintaining dividends in all economic conditions. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was €0.47 in 2011, compared to €1.20 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 13% a year over that time.

We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Brenntag has grown its earnings per share at 6.3% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a credible rate. What's more, the payout ratio is reasonable and provides some protection to the dividend, or even the potential to increase it.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Brenntag's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. It's great to see that Brenntag is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we'd like. Brenntag has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 18 analysts we track are forecasting for Brenntag for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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.