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Consider This Before Buying Hargreaves Services Plc (LON:HSP) For The 2.8% Dividend

Simply Wall St

Is Hargreaves Services Plc (LON:HSP) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

While Hargreaves Services's 2.8% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying Hargreaves Services for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

AIM:HSP Historical Dividend Yield, November 13th 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. Although it reported a loss over the past 12 months, Hargreaves Services currently pays a dividend. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

Hargreaves Services's cash payout ratio last year was 16%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout.

Is Hargreaves Services's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given Hargreaves Services is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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 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 0.29 times its EBITDA, Hargreaves Services has an acceptable level of debt.

Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 1.33 times its interest expense, Hargreaves Services's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

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

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. Hargreaves Services has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was UK£0.11 in 2009, compared to UK£0.072 last year. The dividend has shrunk at around 4.0% a year during that period. Hargreaves Services's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 4.0% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.

We struggle to make a case for buying Hargreaves Services for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that the dividend has been cut in the past, we need to check if earnings are growing and if that might lead to stronger dividends in the future. Hargreaves Services's EPS have fallen by approximately 63% per year during the past five years. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Hargreaves Services's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

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. We're not keen on the fact that Hargreaves Services paid dividends despite reporting a loss over the past year, although fortunately its dividend was covered by cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall, Hargreaves Services falls short in several key areas here. Unless the investor has strong grounds for an alternative conclusion, we find it hard to get interested in a dividend stock with these characteristics.

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

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.