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Should You Buy Finnair Oyj (HEL:FIA1S) For Its Dividend?

Simply Wall St

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Could Finnair Oyj (HEL:FIA1S) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Finnair Oyj is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. It sure looks interesting on these metrics - but there's always more to the story . When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Finnair Oyj!

HLSE:FIA1S Historical Dividend Yield, July 18th 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. 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, Finnair Oyj paid out 37% of its profit as dividends. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Finnair Oyj paid out 143% 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. Finnair Oyj 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 Finnair Oyj to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

With a strong net cash balance, Finnair Oyj investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

We update our data on Finnair Oyj every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, 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. Finnair Oyj has been paying a dividend for the past six years. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we're cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past six-year period, the first annual payment was €0.10 in 2013, compared to €0.27 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 18% a year over that time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.

So, its dividends have grown at a rapid rate over this time, but payments have been cut in the past. The stock may still be worth considering as part of a diversified dividend portfolio.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Finnair Oyj has grown its earnings per share at 47% per annum over the past five years. With high earnings per share growth in recent times and a modest payout ratio, we think this is an attractive combination if earnings can be reinvested to generate further growth.

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. Finnair Oyj has a low payout ratio, which we like, although it paid out virtually all of its generated cash. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Ultimately, Finnair Oyj comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 6 analysts we track are forecasting for Finnair Oyj for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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.