Dividend paying stocks like Delfi Limited (SGX:P34) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. 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 2.6% yield is nothing to get excited about, but investors probably think the long payment history suggests Delfi has some staying power. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.
Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, 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. Delfi paid out 50% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. A payout ratio above 50% generally implies a business is reaching maturity, although it is still possible to reinvest in the business or increase the dividend over time.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Delfi paid out 64% 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.
While the above analysis focuses on dividends relative to a company's earnings, we do note Delfi's strong net cash position, which will let it pay larger dividends for a time, should it choose.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Delfi's financial position here.
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. Delfi has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. Its dividend payments have declined on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.02 in 2010, compared to US$0.019 last year. The dividend has shrunk at a rate of less than 1% a year over this period.
When a company's per-share dividend falls we question if this reflects poorly on either external business conditions, or the company's capital allocation decisions. Either way, we find it hard to get excited about a company with a declining dividend.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Delfi's earnings per share have shrunk at 16% a year over the past five years. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.
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. First, we think Delfi is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Second, earnings per share have been in decline, and its dividend has been cut at least once in the past. In summary, Delfi has a number of shortcomings that we'd find it hard to get past. Things could change, but we think there are a number of better ideas out there.
Are management backing themselves to deliver performance? Check their shareholdings in Delfi in our latest insider ownership analysis.
We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 3%.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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