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Should You Buy Oil India Limited (NSE:OIL) For Its Dividend?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Oil India Limited (NSE:OIL) 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. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Oil India. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. During the year, the company also conducted a buyback equivalent to around 6.3% of its market capitalisation. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NSEI:OIL Historical Dividend Yield, November 15th 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 40% of Oil India's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the 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. Of the free cash flow it generated last year, Oil India paid out 36% as dividends, suggesting the dividend is affordable. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.

We update our data on Oil India 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 Oil India'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 ₹6.70 in 2009, compared to ₹10.25 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 4.3% 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.

Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company's earnings are not consistent.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? While there may be fluctuations in the past , Oil India's earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation. Oil India is paying out less than half of its earnings, which we like. However, earnings per share are unfortunately not growing much. Might this suggest that the company should pay a higher dividend instead?

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. First, we like that the company's dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. Second, earnings have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. Oil India has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 14 Oil India analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates 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.