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How Does Easyknit International Holdings Limited (HKG:1218) Stand Up To These Simple Dividend Safety Checks?

Simply Wall St

Dividend paying stocks like Easyknit International Holdings Limited (HKG:1218) 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. On the other hand, investors have been known to buy a stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

Investors might not know much about Easyknit International Holdings's dividend prospects, even though it has been paying dividends for the last nine years and offers a 1.3% yield. While the yield may not look too great, the relatively long payment history is interesting. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Easyknit International Holdings for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

SEHK:1218 Historical Dividend Yield, October 28th 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. In the last year, Easyknit International Holdings paid out 1.4% of its profit as dividends. We'd say its dividends are thoroughly covered by earnings.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Easyknit International Holdings's cash payout ratio last year was 1.1%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's positive to see that Easyknit International Holdings'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 Easyknit International Holdings's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Easyknit International Holdings 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 4.40 times its EBITDA, investors are starting to take on a meaningful amount of risk, should the business enter a downturn.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Easyknit International Holdings has interest cover of more than 12 times its interest expense, which we think is quite strong.

We update our data on Easyknit International Holdings every 24 hours, so you can always get our latest analysis of its financial health, here.

Dividend Volatility

Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. Looking at the last decade of data, we can see that Easyknit International Holdings paid its first dividend at least nine years ago. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we're cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past nine-year period, the first annual payment was HK$0.16 in 2010, compared to HK$0.05 last year. Dividend payments have fallen sharply, down 69% over that time.

A shrinking dividend over a nine-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

With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. Strong earnings per share (EPS) growth might encourage our interest in the company despite fluctuating dividends, which is why it's great to see Easyknit International Holdings has grown its earnings per share at 85% per annum over the past five years. The company is only paying out a fraction of its earnings as dividends, and in the past been able to use the retained earnings to grow its profits rapidly - an ideal combination.

We'd also point out that Easyknit International Holdings issued a meaningful number of new shares in the past year. Regularly issuing new shares can be detrimental - it's hard to grow dividends per share when new shares are regularly being created.

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. Firstly, we like that Easyknit International Holdings has low and conservative payout ratios. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the dividend has been cut at least once in the past. Overall we think Easyknit International Holdings scores well on our analysis. It's not quite perfect, but we'd definitely be keen to take a closer look.

You can also discover whether shareholders are aligned with insider interests by checking our visualisation of insider shareholdings and trades in Easyknit International Holdings 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.