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Should You Buy Compagnie de Saint-Gobain S.A. (EPA:SGO) For Its 4.0% Dividend?

Simply Wall St

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Is Compagnie de Saint-Gobain S.A. (EPA:SGO) 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.

In this case, Compagnie de Saint-Gobain likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.0% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 1.9% of market capitalisation this year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Compagnie de Saint-Gobain for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

ENXTPA:SGO Historical Dividend Yield, July 12th 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. 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, Compagnie de Saint-Gobain paid out 173% of its profit as dividends. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Compagnie de Saint-Gobain paid out 109% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Compagnie de Saint-Gobain's payouts were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we would definitely be concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.

Is Compagnie de Saint-Gobain's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Compagnie de Saint-Gobain's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) 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. Compagnie de Saint-Gobain has net debt of 1.67 times its EBITDA, which is generally an okay level of debt for most companies.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Compagnie de Saint-Gobain has EBIT of 10.91 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain'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. Compagnie de Saint-Gobain has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was €1.00 in 2009, compared to €1.33 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 2.9% per year over this 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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Compagnie de Saint-Gobain's EPS have declined at around 7.0% a year. If earnings continue to decline, the dividend may come under pressure. Every investor should make an assessment of whether the company is taking steps to stabilise the situation.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with Compagnie de Saint-Gobain paying out a high percentage of both its cashflow and earnings. It's not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The dividends have been relatively consistent, but we wonder for how much longer this will be true. Using these criteria, Compagnie de Saint-Gobain looks quite suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 16 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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.