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Is ACCO Brands Corporation (NYSE:ACCO) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
Some readers mightn't know much about ACCO Brands's 3.1% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for a year or so. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 10% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding ACCO Brands 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. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, ACCO Brands paid out 26% of its profit as dividends. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Plus, there is room to increase the payout ratio over time.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. ACCO Brands paid out 63% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
Is ACCO Brands's Balance Sheet Risky?
As ACCO Brands 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. ACCO Brands has net debt of 3.27 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors' comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. ACCO Brands has EBIT of 5.67 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of ACCO Brands'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. Its most recent annual dividend was US$0.24 per share, effectively flat on its first payment one years ago.
Modest dividend growth is good to see, especially with the payments being relatively stable. However, the payment history is relatively short and we wouldn't want to rely on this dividend too much.
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. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. Earnings have grown at around 6.3% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Earnings per share have been growing at a credible rate. What's more, the payout ratio is reasonable and provides some protection to the dividend, or even the potential to increase it.
To summarise, shareholders should always check that ACCO Brands's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. Firstly, we like that ACCO Brands pays out a low fraction of earnings. It pays out a higher percentage of its cashflow, although this is within acceptable bounds. Second, earnings growth has been ordinary, and its history of dividend payments is shorter than we'd like. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than ACCO Brands out there.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 6 ACCO Brands 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.