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Should Civitas Social Housing PLC (LON:CSH) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Could Civitas Social Housing PLC (LON:CSH) 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. 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.

Civitas Social Housing pays a 6.0% dividend yield, and has been paying dividends for the past two years. It's certainly an attractive yield, but readers are likely curious about its staying power. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 17% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Civitas Social Housing!

LSE:CSH Historical Dividend Yield, June 6th 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. 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 118% of Civitas Social Housing's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. The company paid out 74% of its free cash flow, which is not bad per se, but does start to limit the amount of cash Civitas Social Housing has available to meet other needs. It's good to see that while Civitas Social Housing's dividends were not covered by profits, at least they are affordable from a cash perspective. Still, if the company repeatedly paid a dividend greater than its profits, we'd be concerned. Extraordinarily few companies are capable of persistently paying a dividend that is greater than their profits.

We update our data on Civitas Social Housing 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. The company has been paying a stable dividend for a few years now, but we'd like to see more evidence of consistency over a longer period. During the past two-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.03 in 2017, compared to UK£0.05 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 29% a year over that time.

We're not overly excited about the relatively short history of dividend payments, however the dividend is growing at a nice rate and we might take a closer look.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Civitas Social Housing's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, although its dividend history is not as long as we'd like. Ultimately, Civitas Social Housing 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.

Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in Civitas Social Housing in our latest insider ownership analysis.

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.