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Would CITIC Telecom International Holdings Limited (HKG:1883) Be Valuable To Income Investors?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like CITIC Telecom International Holdings Limited (HKG:1883) 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 CITIC Telecom International Holdings yielding 6.4% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. 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

SEHK:1883 Historical Dividend Yield, September 11th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. As a result, we should always investigate whether a company can afford its dividend, measured as a percentage of a company's net income after tax. Looking at the data, we can see that 70% of CITIC Telecom International Holdings's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. CITIC Telecom International Holdings's cash payout ratio in the last year was 46%, which suggests dividends were well covered by cash generated by the business. 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 CITIC Telecom International Holdings's Balance Sheet Risky?

As CITIC Telecom International Holdings 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 is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. With net debt of 2.40 times its EBITDA, CITIC Telecom International Holdings's debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 4.57 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for CITIC Telecom International Holdings, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

We update our data on CITIC Telecom International Holdings every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

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. CITIC Telecom International Holdings has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of 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 HK$0.084 in 2009, compared to HK$0.19 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 8.5% a year over that time.

Dividends have grown at a reasonable rate over this period, and without any major cuts in the payment over time, we think this is an attractive combination.

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. In the last five years, CITIC Telecom International Holdings's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 5.8% per annum. A modest decline in earnings per share is not great to see, but it doesn't automatically make a dividend unsustainable. Still, we'd vastly prefer to see EPS growth when researching dividend stocks.

We'd also point out that CITIC Telecom International Holdings issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Trying to grow the dividend when issuing new shares reminds us of the ancient Greek tale of Sisyphus - perpetually pushing a boulder uphill. Companies that consistently issue new shares are often suboptimal from a dividend perspective.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that CITIC Telecom International Holdings's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. CITIC Telecom International Holdings's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Earnings per share have not been growing, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. Ultimately, CITIC Telecom International Holdings 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.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 4 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.