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Should You Buy Acsm-Agam S.p.A. (BIT:ACS) For Its Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Is Acsm-Agam S.p.A. (BIT:ACS) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

With Acsm-Agam yielding 3.7% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 2.6% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Acsm-Agam for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Acsm-Agam!

BIT:ACS Historical Dividend Yield, February 2nd 2020

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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. In the last year, Acsm-Agam paid out 131% of its profit as dividends. 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. Unfortunately, while Acsm-Agam pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.

Is Acsm-Agam's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Acsm-Agam's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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. With net debt of 1.42 times its EBITDA, Acsm-Agam has an acceptable level of debt.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Acsm-Agam has interest cover of more than 12 times its interest expense, which we think is quite strong.

We update our data on Acsm-Agam every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Acsm-Agam's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €0.02 in 2010, compared to €0.07 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 13% per year over this time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 13% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

Acsm-Agam 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

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Acsm-Agam's earnings per share have shrunk at 11% a year over the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Acsm-Agam's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

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 a concern to see that the company paid out such a high percentage of its earnings and cashflow as dividends. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. In this analysis, Acsm-Agam doesn't shape up too well as a dividend stock. We'd find it hard to look past the flaws, and would not be inclined to think of it as a reliable dividend-payer.

You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in Acsm-Agam stock.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 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.