U.S. Markets closed

Should You Buy ASM International NV (AMS:ASM) For Its 1.7% Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Dividend paying stocks like ASM International NV (AMS:ASM) 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. 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.

Investors might not know much about ASM International's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last eight years and offers a 1.7% yield. A 1.7% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 8.4% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying ASM International for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

ENXTAM:ASM Historical Dividend Yield, July 3rd 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. 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. ASM International paid out 27% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher 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. ASM International paid out 174% of its free cash last year. Cash flows can be lumpy, but this dividend was not well 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. While ASM International's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, free cash flow is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Cash is king, as they say, and were ASM International to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Consider getting our latest analysis on ASM International's financial position 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. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that ASM International paid its first dividend at least eight years ago. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was €0.40 in 2011, compared to €1.00 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 12% a year over that time.

The dividend has been growing pretty quickly, which could be enough to get us interested even though the dividend history is relatively short. Further research may be warranted.

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. In the last five years, ASM International's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 26% per annum. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

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. ASM International has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. Earnings per share are down, and to our mind ASM International has not been paying a dividend long enough to demonstrate its resilience across economic cycles. In summary, ASM International has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting 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.