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The Case For General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD): Could It Be A Nice Addition To Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Is General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.

A 2.2% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests General Dynamics has some staying power. The company also returned around 2.5% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying General Dynamics for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:GD Historical Dividend Yield, January 24th 2020

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. General Dynamics paid out 34% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. General Dynamics paid out 64% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. 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.

Is General Dynamics's Balance Sheet Risky?

As General Dynamics has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A rough way to check this is with these two simple ratios: a) net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and b) net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). General Dynamics has net debt of 2.33 times its EBITDA. Using debt can accelerate business growth, but also increases the risks.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. General Dynamics has EBIT of 9.94 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of General Dynamics'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. General Dynamics has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.52 in 2010, compared to US$4.08 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 10% a year over that time.

With rapid dividend growth and no notable cuts to the dividend over a lengthy period of time, we think this company has a lot going for it.

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 General Dynamics has been growing its earnings per share at 10% a year 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. Above all, we're glad to see that General Dynamics pays out a low fraction of its earnings and, while it paid a higher percentage of cashflow, this also was within a normal range. That said, we were glad to see it growing earnings and paying a fairly consistent dividend. Overall we think General Dynamics scores well on our analysis. It's not quite perfect, but we'd definitely be keen to take a closer look.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 16 analysts we track are forecasting for General Dynamics 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%.

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.