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Consider This Before Buying R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (NYSE:RRD) For The 4.1% Dividend

Simply Wall St

Could R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (NYSE:RRD) 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.

In this case, R.R. Donnelley & Sons likely looks attractive to investors, given its 4.1% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 0.5% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Remember that the recent share price drop will make R.R. Donnelley & Sons's yield look higher, even though recent events might have impacted the company's prospects. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on R.R. Donnelley & Sons!

NYSE:RRD Historical Dividend Yield, May 16th 2019

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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 be form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. While R.R. Donnelley & Sons pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

As a loss-making company, we can also measure R.R. Donnelley & Sons's dividend payments against its levered free cash flow, to see if enough cash was generated to cover the dividend. R.R. Donnelley & Sons paid out a conservative 26% of its free cash flow as dividends last year.


Is R.R. Donnelley & Sons's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given R.R. Donnelley & Sons 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 a company's total debt load relative to its earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the company's ability to pay the interest on its debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of more than 5x EBITDA, R.R. Donnelley & Sons could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we'd be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings 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. With EBIT of 1.67 times its interest expense, R.R. Donnelley & Sons's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. Low interest cover and high debt can create problems right when the investor least needs them. We're generally reluctant to rely on the dividend of companies with these traits.

We update our data on R.R. Donnelley & Sons 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. R.R. Donnelley & Sons has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$3.12 in 2009, compared to US$0.12 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 96% over that time.


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. It's not great to see that R.R. Donnelley & Sons's have fallen at approximately 41% over the past five years. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that R.R. Donnelley & Sons'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 we note cashflow was stronger than income. Earnings per share are down, and R.R. Donnelley & Sons's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Overall, R.R. Donnelley & Sons 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.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in R.R. Donnelley & Sons stock.

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.