Could Systemax Inc. (NYSE:SYX) 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. 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.
Some readers mightn't know much about Systemax's 2.5% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for the last three years. While it may not look like much, if earnings are growing it could become quite interesting. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.7% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. 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.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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 33% of Systemax'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. 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. Systemax paid out 283% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Paying out more than 100% of your free cash flow in dividends is generally not a long-term, sustainable state of affairs, so we think shareholders should watch this metric closely. Systemax paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to Systemax's ability to maintain its dividend.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Systemax's financial position here.
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. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a few years now, but we'd like to see more evidence of consistency over a longer period. During the past three-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.20 in 2016, compared to US$0.48 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 34% per year over this time.
We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. It's good to see Systemax has been growing its earnings per share at 66% a year over the past 5 years. Earnings per share have rocketed in recent times, and we like that the company is retaining more than half of its earnings to reinvest. However, always remember that very few companies can grow at double digit rates forever.
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 Systemax's low dividend payout ratio, although we're a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. Second, the company has not been able to generate earnings growth, and its history of dividend payments too short for us to thoroughly evaluate the dividend's consistency across an economic cycle. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Systemax from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in Systemax stock.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
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