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Does Eaton Corporation plc (NYSE:ETN) Have A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Could Eaton Corporation plc (NYSE:ETN) be an attractive dividend share to own for the long haul? Investors are often drawn to strong companies with the idea of reinvesting the dividends. 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 Eaton. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 3.4% of market capitalisation this year. Some simple analysis can offer a lot of insights when buying a company for its dividend, and we'll go through this below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:ETN Historical Dividend Yield, July 10th 2019

Payout ratios

Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. So we need to form a view on if a company's dividend is sustainable, relative to its net profit after tax. In the last year, Eaton paid out 53% of its profit as dividends. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Eaton paid out 51% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. It's positive to see that Eaton'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.

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

Dividend Volatility

One of the major risks of relying on dividend income, is the potential for a company to struggle financially and cut its dividend. Not only is your income cut, but the value of your investment declines as well - nasty. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Eaton's dividend payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.00 in 2009, compared to US$2.84 last year. This works out to be a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 11% 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

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Growing EPS can help maintain or increase the purchasing power of the dividend over the long run. Earnings have grown at around 5.2% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! The rate at which earnings have grown is quite decent, and by paying out more than half of its earnings as dividends, the company is striking a reasonable balance between reinvestment and returns to shareholders.

Conclusion

To summarise, shareholders should always check that Eaton's dividends are affordable, that its dividend payments are relatively stable, and that it has decent prospects for growing its earnings and dividend. First, we think Eaton is paying out an acceptable percentage of its cashflow and profit. Earnings per share growth has been slow, but we respect a company that maintains a relatively stable dividend. While we're not hugely bearish on it, overall we think there are potentially better dividend stocks than Eaton out there.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 20 analysts we track are forecasting for Eaton for free with public analyst estimates for the company.

We have also put together a list of global stocks with a market capitalisation above $1bn and yielding more 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.