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Should The Children's Place, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLCE) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Is The Children's Place, Inc. (NASDAQ:PLCE) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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 2.5% yield and a five-year payment history, investors probably think Children's Place looks like a reliable dividend stock. A 2.5% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 8.7% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:PLCE Historical Dividend Yield, June 4th 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 45% of Children's Place's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Children's Place paid out 123% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Children's Place 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 Children's Place to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

Is Children's Place's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Children's Place has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick way to check a company's financial situation uses these two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures a company's total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company's ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). Children's Place has net debt of more than 3x its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors' comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 23.35 times its interest expense, Children's Place's interest cover is quite strong - more than enough to cover the interest expense.

We update our data on Children's Place 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. Children's Place has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.53 in 2014, compared to US$2.24 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 33% a year over that 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

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It's good to see Children's Place has been growing its earnings per share at 14% a year over the past 5 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

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Children's Place's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, the company has a conservative payout ratio, although we'd note that its cashflow in the past year was substantially lower than its reported profit. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. Ultimately, Children's Place 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.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 7 Children's Place 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.