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China Maple Leaf Educational Systems Limited's (HKG:1317) Attractive Combination: Does It Earn A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Could China Maple Leaf Educational Systems Limited (HKG:1317) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

With a five-year payment history and a 3.3% yield, many investors probably find China Maple Leaf Educational Systems intriguing. It sure looks interesting on these metrics - but there's always more to the story . When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

SEHK:1317 Historical Dividend Yield, January 3rd 2020

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 42% of China Maple Leaf Educational Systems'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. 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. China Maple Leaf Educational Systems paid out a conservative 35% 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.

While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note China Maple Leaf Educational Systems's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.

We update our data on China Maple Leaf Educational Systems 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. China Maple Leaf Educational Systems has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was CN¥0.02 in 2015, compared to CN¥0.092 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 36% a year over that time.

China Maple Leaf Educational Systems has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see China Maple Leaf Educational Systems has grown its earnings per share at 54% per annum over the past five 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.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that China Maple Leaf Educational Systems's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. 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. Overall we think China Maple Leaf Educational Systems scores well on our analysis. It's not quite perfect, but we'd definitely be keen to take a closer look.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 11 China Maple Leaf Educational Systems analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on 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.