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Are Dividend Investors Making A Mistake With Peak Resorts, Inc. (NASDAQ:SKIS)?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like Peak Resorts, Inc. (NASDAQ:SKIS) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

In this case, Peak Resorts likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 7.2% dividend yield and five-year payment history. It sure looks interesting on these metrics - but there's always more to the story . Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Peak Resorts!

NasdaqGM:SKIS Historical Dividend Yield, June 26th 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Although it reported a loss over the past 12 months, Peak Resorts currently pays a dividend. When a company recently reported a loss, we should investigate if its cash flows covered the dividend.

Last year, Peak Resorts paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

Is Peak Resorts's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given Peak Resorts 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, Peak Resorts 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. Interest cover of less than 5x its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Peak Resorts, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. 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.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Peak Resorts'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. Peak Resorts has been paying a dividend for the past five years. During the past five-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.55 in 2014, compared to US$0.28 last year. Dividend payments have fallen sharply, down 49% over that time.

We struggle to make a case for buying Peak Resorts for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past five years.

Dividend Growth Potential

Given that dividend payments have been shrinking like a glacier in a warming world, we need to check if there are some bright spots on the horizon. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Peak Resorts has grown its earnings per share at 21% per annum over the past five years.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Peak Resorts'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 Peak Resorts paying a dividend while loss-making, especially since the dividend was also not well covered by free cash flow. We were also glad to see it growing earnings, but it was concerning to see the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In summary, Peak Resorts has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are likely more attractive alternatives out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 3 analysts we track are forecasting for Peak Resorts for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

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.