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Should You Buy Abano Healthcare Group Limited (NZSE:ABA) For Its Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Abano Healthcare Group Limited (NZSE:ABA) 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. 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.

In this case, Abano Healthcare Group likely looks attractive to investors, given its 5.1% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Abano Healthcare Group's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Abano Healthcare Group for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

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NZSE:ABA Historical Dividend Yield, September 25th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Abano Healthcare Group paid out 82% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. It's paying out most of its earnings, which limits the amount that can be reinvested in the business. This may indicate limited need for further capital within the business, or highlight a commitment to paying a dividend.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 1525%, Abano Healthcare Group's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Abano Healthcare Group 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 Abano Healthcare Group to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Is Abano Healthcare Group's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Abano Healthcare Group 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). Abano Healthcare Group has net debt of 4.50 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.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 3.75 times its interest expense, Abano Healthcare Group's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Abano Healthcare Group's financial position 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. Abano Healthcare Group has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.21 in 2009, compared to NZ$0.24 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 1.3% a year over that time. Abano Healthcare Group's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 1.3% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

It's good to see some dividend growth, but the dividend has been cut at least once, and the size of the cut would eliminate most of the growth, anyway. We're not that enthused by this.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. It's good to see Abano Healthcare Group has been growing its earnings per share at 38% a year over the past five years. The company pays out most of its earnings as dividends, although with such rapid EPS growth, its possible the dividend is better covered than it looks. Still, we'd be cautious about extrapolating high growth too far out into the future.

We'd also point out that Abano Healthcare Group issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Abano Healthcare Group's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Abano Healthcare Group gets a pass on its dividend payout ratio, but it paid out virtually all of its cash flow as dividends. This may just be a one-off, but we'd keep an eye on this. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Abano Healthcare Group out there.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Abano Healthcare Group stock.

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.