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How Does La-Z-Boy Incorporated (NYSE:LZB) Fare As A Dividend Stock?

Simply Wall St

Is La-Z-Boy Incorporated (NYSE:LZB) a good dividend stock? How can we tell? Dividend paying companies with growing earnings can be highly rewarding in the long term. Yet sometimes, investors buy a popular dividend stock because of its yield, and then lose money if the company's dividend doesn't live up to expectations.

While La-Z-Boy's 1.6% 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 0.6% of the company's market capitalisation at the time. Some simple research can reduce the risk of buying La-Z-Boy for its dividend - read on to learn more.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:LZB Historical Dividend Yield, August 18th 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. Comparing dividend payments to a company's net profit after tax is a simple way of reality-checking whether a dividend is sustainable. Looking at the data, we can see that 34% of La-Z-Boy's profits were paid out as dividends in the last 12 months. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. Besides, if reinvestment opportunities dry up, the company has room to increase the dividend.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. La-Z-Boy's cash payout ratio last year was 23%. Cash flows are typically lumpy, but this looks like an appropriately conservative payout. It's positive to see that La-Z-Boy'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 La-Z-Boy'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 La-Z-Boy'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$0.16 in 2009, compared to US$0.52 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 13% per year over this time. La-Z-Boy's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 13% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

La-Z-Boy has grown distributions at a rapid rate despite cutting the dividend at least once in the past. Companies that cut once often cut again, but it might be worth considering if the business has turned a corner.

Dividend Growth Potential

With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to see if earnings per share (EPS) are growing. Why take the risk of a dividend getting cut, unless there's a good chance of bigger dividends in future? La-Z-Boy has grown its earnings per share at 5.5% per annum over the past five years. It's good to see decent earnings growth and a low payout ratio. Companies with these characteristics often display the fastest dividend growth over the long term - assuming earnings can be maintained, of course.

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. Firstly, we like that La-Z-Boy has low and conservative payout ratios. Unfortunately, the company has not been able to generate earnings per share growth, and cut its dividend at least once in the past. Overall we think La-Z-Boy is an interesting dividend stock, although it could be better.

Companies that are growing earnings tend to be the best dividend stocks over the long term. See what the 4 analysts we track are forecasting for La-Z-Boy 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.