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How Does Infratil Limited (NZSE:IFT) Fare As A Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Could Infratil Limited (NZSE:IFT) 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. 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.

In this case, Infratil likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.6% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. It would not be a surprise to discover that many investors buy it for the dividends. When buying stocks for their dividends, you should always run through the checks below, to see if the dividend looks sustainable.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NZSE:IFT Historical Dividend Yield May 11th 2020

Payout ratios

Dividends are usually paid out of company earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, then the dividend might become unsustainable - hardly an ideal situation. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Although Infratil pays a dividend, it was loss-making during the past year. When a company is loss-making, we next need to check to see if its cash flows can support the dividend.

Last year, Infratil paid a dividend while reporting negative free cash flow. While there may be an explanation, we think this behaviour is generally not sustainable.

Is Infratil's Balance Sheet Risky?

Given Infratil is paying a dividend but reported a loss over the past year, 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 is a measure of a company's total debt. Net interest cover measures the ability to meet interest payments. Essentially we check that a) the company does not have too much debt, and b) that it can afford to pay the interest. Infratil has net debt of 9.04 times its EBITDA, which implies meaningful risk if interest rates rise of earnings decline.

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 1.29 times its interest expense, Infratil's interest cover is starting to look a bit thin. High debt and weak interest cover are not a great combo, and we would be cautious of relying on this company's dividend while these metrics persist.

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

Dividend Volatility

From the perspective of an income investor who wants to earn dividends for many years, there is not much point buying a stock if its dividend is regularly cut or is not reliable. For the purpose of this article, we only scrutinise the last decade of Infratil's dividend payments. The dividend has been stable over the past 10 years, which is great. We think this could suggest some resilience to the business and its dividends. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was NZ$0.063 in 2010, compared to NZ$0.17 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 11% per year over this time.

It's rare to find a company that has grown its dividends rapidly over ten years and not had any notable cuts, but Infratil has done it, which we really like.

Dividend Growth Potential

While dividend payments have been relatively reliable, it would also be nice if earnings per share (EPS) were growing, as this is essential to maintaining the dividend's purchasing power over the long term. Infratil's EPS are effectively flat over the past five years. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation.

We'd also point out that Infratil 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

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. It's a concern to see that the company paid a dividend despite reporting a loss, and the dividend was also not well covered by free cash flow. It's not great to see earnings per share shrinking. The dividends have been relatively consistent, but we wonder for how much longer this will be true. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with Infratil from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.

Market movements attest to how highly valued a consistent dividend policy is compared to one which is more unpredictable. However, there are other things to consider for investors when analysing stock performance. For example, we've identified 4 warning signs for Infratil (2 are a bit concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.