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Should Computer Programs and Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CPSI) Be Part Of Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Is Computer Programs and Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CPSI) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

While Computer Programs and Systems's 1.8% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Computer Programs and Systems for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NasdaqGS:CPSI Historical Dividend Yield, October 7th 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. 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 31% of Computer Programs and Systems'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. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.

We also measure dividends paid against a company's levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. Computer Programs and Systems paid out 18% of its free cash flow as dividends last year, which is conservative and suggests the dividend is sustainable. It's positive to see that Computer Programs and Systems's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

Is Computer Programs and Systems's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Computer Programs and Systems has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and net interest cover. Net debt to EBITDA measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 3.68 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

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 3.35 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Computer Programs and Systems, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

We update our data on Computer Programs and 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Computer Programs and Systems's dividend payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.44 in 2009, compared to US$0.40 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 72% over that time.

A shrinking dividend over a ten-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. Over the past five years, it looks as though Computer Programs and Systems's EPS have declined at around 15% a year. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. Firstly, we like that Computer Programs and Systems has low and conservative payout ratios. Earnings per share are down, and Computer Programs and Systems's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Computer Programs and Systems from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 9 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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.