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Is Carter's, Inc. (NYSE:CRI) A Smart Choice For Dividend Investors?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Carter's, Inc. (NYSE:CRI) 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 stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.

With a 2.0% yield and a seven-year payment history, investors probably think Carter's looks like a reliable dividend stock. A low yield is generally a turn-off, but if the prospects for earnings growth were strong, investors might be pleasantly surprised by the long-term results. The company also returned around 4.2% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Carter's for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:CRI Historical Dividend Yield, December 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Carter's paid out 33% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Carter's paid out a conservative 25% of its free cash flow as dividends last year. 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 Carter's 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. Looking at the data, we can see that Carter's has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. Its dividend has not fluctuated much that time, which we like, but we're conscious that the company might not yet have a track record of maintaining dividends in all economic conditions. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.64 in 2012, compared to US$2.00 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 18% per year over this time.

The dividend has been growing pretty quickly, which could be enough to get us interested even though the dividend history is relatively short. Further research may be warranted.

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. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Carter's has grown its earnings per share at 16% per annum over the past five years. Earnings per share have been growing at a good rate, and the company is paying less than half its earnings as dividends. We generally think this is an attractive combination, as it permits further reinvestment in the business.

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. First, we like that the company's dividend payments appear well covered, although the retained capital also needs to be effectively reinvested. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. All things considered, Carter's looks like a strong prospect. At the right valuation, it could be something special.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 9 Carter's analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.