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How Does Greenhill & Co., Inc. (NYSE:GHL) Fare As A Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Is Greenhill & Co., Inc. (NYSE:GHL) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

While Greenhill's 1.1% dividend yield is not the highest, we think its lengthy payment history is quite interesting. The company also bought back stock during the year, equivalent to approximately 30% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Greenhill for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:GHL Historical Dividend Yield, November 11th 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. While Greenhill pays a dividend, it reported a loss over the last year. When a financial business is loss-making and pays a dividend, the dividend is not covered by profits. Its important that investors assess the quality of the company's assets and whether it can return to generating a positive income.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Greenhill's financial position 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. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Greenhill's dividend payments. Its dividend payments have fallen by 20% or more on at least one occasion over the past ten years. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$1.80 in 2009, compared to US$0.20 last year. This works out to a decline of approximately 89% over that time.

We struggle to make a case for buying Greenhill for its dividend, given that payments have shrunk over the past ten years.

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. Over the past five years, it looks as though Greenhill's EPS have declined at around 33% a year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and Greenhill's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with it paying a dividend while reporting a loss over the past year. Earnings per share are down, and Greenhill's dividend has been cut at least once in the past, which is disappointing. Using these criteria, Greenhill looks suboptimal from a dividend investment perspective.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Businesses can change though, and we think it would make sense to see what analysts are forecasting for the company.

Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield 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.