Is Gibson Energy Inc. (TSE:GEI) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Unfortunately, it's common for investors to be enticed in by the seemingly attractive yield, and lose money when the company has to cut its dividend payments.
With a goodly-sized dividend yield despite a relatively short payment history, investors might be wondering if Gibson Energy is a new dividend aristocrat in the making. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Gibson Energy for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.
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. 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, Gibson Energy paid out 129% of its profit as dividends. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, from the perspective of an investor who hopes to own the company for many years, a payout ratio of above 100% is definitely a concern.
In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. With a cash payout ratio of 96%, Gibson Energy's dividend payments are poorly covered by cash flow. Cash is slightly more important than profit from a dividend perspective, but given Gibson Energy's payments were not well covered by either earnings or cash flow, we are concerned about the sustainability of this dividend.
Is Gibson Energy's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Gibson Energy's dividend was not well covered by earnings, we need to check its balance sheet for signs of financial distress. 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 2.74 times its EBITDA, Gibson Energy's debt burden is within a normal range for most listed companies.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 3.87 times its interest expense, Gibson Energy's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.
Consider getting our latest analysis on Gibson Energy's financial position here.
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. The first recorded dividend for Gibson Energy, in the last decade, was eight years ago. The dividend has been quite stable over the past eight years, which is great to see - although we usually like to see the dividend maintained for a decade before giving it full marks, though. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.96 in 2011, compared to CA$1.32 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 4.1% per year over this time.
Modest dividend growth is good to see, especially with the payments being relatively stable. However, the payment history is relatively short and we wouldn't want to rely on this dividend too much.
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 3.6% a year for the past five years, which is better than seeing them shrink! Still, the company has struggled to grow its EPS, and currently pays out 129% of its earnings. As they say in finance, 'past performance is not indicative of future performance', but we are not confident a company with limited earnings growth and a high payout ratio will be a star dividend-payer over the next decade.
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. We're a bit uncomfortable with Gibson Energy paying out a high percentage of both its cashflow and earnings. Second, the company has not been able to generate earnings growth, and its history of dividend payments too short for us to thoroughly evaluate the dividend's consistency across an economic cycle. In this analysis, Gibson Energy doesn't shape up too well as a dividend stock. We'd find it hard to look past the flaws, and would not be inclined to think of it as a reliable dividend-payer.
Earnings growth generally bodes well for the future value of company dividend payments. See if the 9 Gibson Energy 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%.
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