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Does BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:BWXT) Have A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll take a closer look at BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:BWXT) 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. If you are hoping to live on the income from dividends, it's important to be a lot more stringent with your investments than the average punter.

With a 1.1% yield and a seven-year payment history, investors probably think BWX Technologies looks like a reliable dividend stock. A 1.1% yield is not inspiring, but the longer payment history has some appeal. The company also returned around 3.0% of its market capitalisation to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks over the past year. 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 BWX Technologies!

NYSE:BWXT Historical Dividend Yield, December 30th 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. Looking at the data, we can see that 31% of BWX Technologies's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. A medium payout ratio strikes a good balance between paying dividends, and keeping enough back to invest in the business. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. BWX Technologies paid out 67% of its cash flow as dividends last year, which is within a reasonable range for the average corporation. 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 BWX Technologies's Balance Sheet Risky?

As BWX Technologies 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 measures total debt load relative to company earnings (lower = less debt), while net interest cover measures the ability to pay interest on the debt (higher = greater ability to pay interest costs). With net debt of 2.54 times its EBITDA, BWX Technologies's debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Net interest cover of 7.82 times its interest expense appears reasonable for BWX Technologies, although we're conscious that even high interest cover doesn't make a company bulletproof.

Remember, you can always get a snapshot of BWX Technologies'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. Looking at the data, we can see that BWX Technologies has been paying a dividend for the past seven years. It's good to see that BWX Technologies has been paying a dividend for a number of years. However, the dividend has been cut at least once in the past, and we're concerned that what has been cut once, could be cut again. During the past seven-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.32 in 2012, compared to US$0.68 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 11% per year over this time. BWX Technologies's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 11% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

It's not great to see that the payment has been cut in the past. We're generally more wary of companies that have cut their dividend before, as they tend to perform worse in an economic downturn.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? BWX Technologies has grown its earnings per share at 3.8% per annum over the past five years. A payout ratio below 50% leaves ample room to reinvest in the business, and provides finanical flexibility. Earnings per share growth have grown slowly, which is not great, but if the retained earnings can be reinvested effectively, future growth may be stronger.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that BWX Technologies's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. BWX Technologies's dividend payout ratios are within normal bounds, although we note its cash flow is not as strong as the income statement would suggest. Unfortunately, earnings growth has also been mediocre, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than BWX Technologies out there.

Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 7 BWX Technologies analysts we track are forecasting continued growth with our free report on analyst estimates for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.