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Does Cogeco Inc. (TSE:CGO) Have A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Is Cogeco Inc. (TSE:CGO) a good dividend stock? How would you know? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

A slim 2.1% yield is hard to get excited about, but the long payment history is respectable. At the right price, or with strong growth opportunities, Cogeco could have potential. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 0.8% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Cogeco for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Cogeco!

TSX:CGO Historical Dividend Yield, June 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Cogeco paid out 29% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is medium payout level that leaves enough capital in the business to fund opportunities that might arise, while also rewarding shareholders. 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. Cogeco's cash payout ratio last year was 9.3%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's positive to see that Cogeco's dividend is covered by both profits and cash flow, since this is generally a sign that the dividend is sustainable, and a lower payout ratio usually suggests a greater margin of safety before the dividend gets cut.

Is Cogeco's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Cogeco 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 on debt. Essentially we check that a) a company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Cogeco has net debt of more than 3x 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. With EBIT of 2.97 times its interest expense, Cogeco's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Cogeco's financial position here.

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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Cogeco's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.32 in 2009, compared to CA$1.72 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 18% a year over that time.

Dividends have been growing pretty quickly, and even more impressively, they haven't experienced any notable falls during this period.

Dividend Growth Potential

Dividend payments have been consistent over the past few years, but we should always check if earnings per share (EPS) are growing, as this will help maintain the purchasing power of the dividend. Earnings have grown at around 8.0% 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.

Conclusion

When we look at a dividend stock, we need to form a judgement on whether the dividend will grow, if the company is able to maintain it in a wide range of economic circumstances, and if the dividend payout is sustainable. Firstly, we like that Cogeco has low and conservative payout ratios. We like that it has been delivering solid improvement in its earnings per share, and relatively consistent dividend payments. All these things considered, we think this organisation has a lot going for it from a dividend perspective.

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