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Should You Buy Emperor Entertainment Hotel Limited (HKG:296) For Its Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Emperor Entertainment Hotel Limited (HKG:296) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Emperor Entertainment Hotel. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also returned around 3.8% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

SEHK:296 Historical Dividend Yield, October 23rd 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. Emperor Entertainment Hotel paid out 29% 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. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Emperor Entertainment Hotel's cash payout ratio in the last year was 32%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. It's positive to see that Emperor Entertainment Hotel's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Emperor Entertainment Hotel's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Emperor Entertainment Hotel's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Emperor Entertainment Hotel's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was HK$0.018 in 2009, compared to HK$0.082 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 16% a year over that time. The dividends haven't grown at precisely 16% every year, but this is a useful way to average out the historical rate of growth.

It's not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We're generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Emperor Entertainment Hotel's EPS have declined at around 9.2% a year. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn't automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we'd vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.

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. It's great to see that Emperor Entertainment Hotel is paying out a low percentage of its earnings and cash flow. Earnings per share are down, and Emperor Entertainment Hotel's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Emperor Entertainment Hotel out there.

Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in Emperor Entertainment Hotel in our latest insider ownership analysis.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.