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Are Dividend Investors Making A Mistake With Weis Markets, Inc. (NYSE:WMK)?

Simply Wall St

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Could Weis Markets, Inc. (NYSE:WMK) 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. 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.

With Weis Markets yielding 3.4% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Weis Markets for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:WMK Historical Dividend Yield, July 4th 2019

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 form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. Weis Markets paid out 54% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 108%, Weis Markets's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Weis Markets paid out less in dividends than it reported in profits, but unfortunately it didn't generate enough free cash flow to cover the dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to Weis Markets's ability to maintain its dividend.

We update our data on Weis Markets 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Weis Markets's dividend payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.16 in 2009, compared to US$1.24 last year. Dividend payments have grown at less than 1% a year over this period.

While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.

Dividend Growth Potential

Examining whether the dividend is affordable and stable is important. However, it's also important to assess if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. It's not great to see that Weis Markets's have fallen at approximately 3.6% 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 Weis Markets'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 Weis Markets has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. Second, earnings per share have actually shrunk, but at least the dividends have been relatively stable. With this information in mind, we think Weis Markets may not be an ideal dividend stock.

See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Weis Markets stock.

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 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.