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Does Briggs & Stratton Corporation (NYSE:BGG) Have A Place In Your Dividend Stock Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at Briggs & Stratton Corporation (NYSE:BGG) 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. 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.

A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Briggs & Stratton. 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 2.5% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Remember though, due to the recent spike in its share price, Briggs & Stratton's yield will look lower, even though the market may now be factoring in an improvement in its long-term prospects. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

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NYSE:BGG Historical Dividend Yield, November 16th 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. 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. While Briggs & Stratton pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.

Unfortunately, while Briggs & Stratton 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.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Briggs & Stratton's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. Briggs & Stratton has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.88 in 2009, compared to US$0.20 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 77% over that time.

A shrinking dividend over a ten-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Briggs & Stratton's EPS have declined at around 49% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Briggs & Stratton's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

Conclusion

Dividend investors should always want to know if a) a company's dividends are affordable, b) if there is a track record of consistent payments, and c) if the dividend is capable of growing. We're a bit uncomfortable with Briggs & Stratton paying a dividend while loss-making, especially since the dividend was also not well covered by free cash flow. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In this analysis, Briggs & Stratton doesn't shape up too well as a dividend stock. We'd find it hard to look past the flaws, and would not be inclined to think of it as a reliable dividend-payer.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 4 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.

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.