Today we'll take a closer look at Consolidated Edison, Inc. (NYSE:ED) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.
With Consolidated Edison yielding 3.2% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Consolidated Edison for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.
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. 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. Consolidated Edison paid out 69% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend 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. Unfortunately, while Consolidated Edison pays a dividend, it also reported negative free cash flow last year. While there may be a good reason for this, it's not ideal from a dividend perspective.
Is Consolidated Edison's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Consolidated Edison 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 4.90 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 2.93 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Consolidated Edison, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Consolidated Edison's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Consolidated Edison's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$2.34 in 2009, compared to US$2.96 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 2.4% per year over this time.
While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.
Dividend Growth Potential
While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Consolidated Edison has grown its earnings per share at 3.0% per annum over the past five years. Growth of 3.0% is relatively anaemic growth, which we wonder about. If the company is struggling to grow, perhaps that's why it elects to pay out more than half of its earnings to shareholders.
We'd also point out that Consolidated Edison issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that Consolidated Edison's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think Consolidated Edison has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings growth has been mediocre, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Consolidated Edison out there.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 12 Consolidated Edison analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.
If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding 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 email@example.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.