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How Does Hapag-Lloyd Aktiengesellschaft (ETR:HLAG) Fare As A Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Is Hapag-Lloyd Aktiengesellschaft (ETR:HLAG) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. 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.

Some readers mightn't know much about Hapag-Lloyd's 0.7% dividend, as it has only been paying distributions for a year or so. That said, the recent jump in the share price will make Hapag-Lloyd's dividend yield look smaller, even though the company prospects could be improving. Some simple analysis can reduce the risk of holding Hapag-Lloyd for its dividend, and we'll focus on the most important aspects below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

XTRA:HLAG Historical Dividend Yield May 25th 2020

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, Hapag-Lloyd paid out 66% of its profit as dividends. This is a fairly normal payout ratio among most businesses. It allows a higher dividend to be paid to shareholders, but does limit the capital retained in the business - which could be good or bad.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Hapag-Lloyd's cash payout ratio last year was 2.1%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It's positive to see that Hapag-Lloyd'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 Hapag-Lloyd's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Hapag-Lloyd has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. A quick check of its financial situation can be done with two ratios: net debt divided by EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), and 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). Hapag-Lloyd is carrying net debt of 3.28 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the upper limit of our comfort range on a dividend stock that the investor hopes will endure a wide range of economic circumstances.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. With EBIT of 1.72 times its interest expense, Hapag-Lloyd's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Hapag-Lloyd'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. This company has been paying a dividend for less than 2 years, which we think is too soon to consider it a reliable dividend stock. Last year's dividends were more than 600% higher than the payment one years ago.

Hapag-Lloyd has been growing its dividend quite rapidly, which is exciting. However, the short payment history makes us question whether this performance will persist across a full market cycle.

Dividend Growth Potential

The other half of the dividend investing equation is evaluating whether earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Over the long term, dividends need to grow at or above the rate of inflation, in order to maintain the recipient's purchasing power. It's good to see Hapag-Lloyd has been growing its earnings per share at 71% a year over the past five years. With recent, rapid earnings per share growth and a payout ratio of 66%, this business looks like an interesting prospect if earnings are reinvested effectively.

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. Hapag-Lloyd's payout ratios are within a normal range for the average corporation, and we like that its cashflow was stronger than reported profits. Next, earnings growth has been good, but unfortunately the company has not been paying dividends as long as we'd like. Hapag-Lloyd has a number of positive attributes, but it falls slightly short of our (admittedly high) standards. Were there evidence of a strong moat or an attractive valuation, it could still be well worth a look.

It's important to note that companies having a consistent dividend policy will generate greater investor confidence than those having an erratic one. Meanwhile, despite the importance of dividend payments, they are not the only factors our readers should know when assessing a company. To that end, Hapag-Lloyd has 2 warning signs (and 1 which shouldn't be ignored) we think you should know about.

If you are a dividend investor, you might also want to look at our curated list of dividend stocks yielding above 3%.

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.