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Is Churchill China plc (LON:CHH) An Attractive Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Churchill China plc (LON:CHH) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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 slim 1.5% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Churchill China could have potential. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Churchill China for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

AIM:CHH Historical Dividend Yield, February 21st 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. Churchill China paid out 42% 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. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Churchill China paid out 118% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. Churchill China 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 Churchill China to repeatedly pay dividends that aren't well covered by cashflow, we would consider this a warning sign.

With a strong net cash balance, Churchill China investors may not have much to worry about in the near term from a dividend perspective.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Churchill China's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Churchill China's dividend payments. During this period the dividend has been stable, which could imply the business could have relatively consistent earnings power. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.14 in 2010, compared to UK£0.29 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 7.6% per year over this time.

Businesses that can grow their dividends at a decent rate and maintain a stable payout can generate substantial wealth for shareholders over the long term.

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 Churchill China has been growing its earnings per share at 23% a year 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

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 Churchill China's low dividend payout ratio, although we're a bit concerned that it paid out a substantially higher percentage of its free cash flow. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. Overall we think Churchill China is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Now, if you want to look closer, it would be worth checking out our free research on Churchill China management tenure, salary, and performance.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.