Dividend paying stocks like Melcor Developments Ltd. (TSE:MRD) tend to be popular with investors, and for good reason - some research suggests a significant amount of all stock market returns come from reinvested dividends. Yet sometimes, investors buy a stock for its dividend and lose money because the share price falls by more than they earned in dividend payments.
A high yield and a long history of paying dividends is an appealing combination for Melcor Developments. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. Before you buy any stock for its dividend however, you should always remember Warren Buffett's two rules: 1) Don't lose money, and 2) Remember rule #1. We'll run through some checks below to help with this.
Companies (usually) pay dividends out of their earnings. If a company is paying more than it earns, the dividend might have to be cut. 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, Melcor Developments paid out 33% of its profit as dividends. This is a middling range that strikes a nice balance between paying dividends to shareholders, and retaining enough earnings to invest in future growth. One of the risks is that management reinvests the retained capital poorly instead of paying a higher dividend.
Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. Melcor Developments paid out 56% of its free cash flow last year, which is acceptable, but is starting to limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested into the business. It's positive to see that Melcor Developments'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 Melcor Developments's Balance Sheet Risky?
As Melcor Developments 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). With net debt of 6.65 times its EBITDA, Melcor Developments could be described as a highly leveraged company. While some companies can handle this level of leverage, we'd be concerned about the dividend sustainability if there was any risk of an earnings downturn.
Net interest cover can be calculated by dividing earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) by the company's net interest expense. Interest cover of 4.32 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for Melcor Developments, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well. 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.
Remember, you can always get a snapshot of Melcor Developments's latest financial position, by checking our visualisation of its financial health.
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. Melcor Developments has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. The dividend has been cut by more than 20% on at least one occasion historically. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was CA$0.42 in 2009, compared to CA$0.48 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 1.3% per year over this time. The growth in dividends has not been linear, but the CAGR is a decent approximation of the rate of change over this time frame.
Modest growth in the dividend is good to see, but we think this is offset by historical cuts to the payments. It is hard to live on a dividend income if the company's earnings are not consistent.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, it's even more important to evaluate if earnings per share (EPS) are growing - it's not worth taking the risk on a dividend getting cut, unless you might be rewarded with larger dividends in future. Melcor Developments's EPS have fallen by approximately 14% per year. A sharp decline in earnings per share is not great from from a dividend perspective, as even conservative payout ratios can come under pressure if earnings fall far enough.
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. Firstly, we like that Melcor Developments pays out a low fraction of earnings. It pays out a higher percentage of its cashflow, although this is within acceptable bounds. Second, earnings per share have been essentially flat, and its history of dividend payments is chequered - having cut its dividend at least once in the past. In sum, we find it hard to get excited about Melcor Developments from a dividend perspective. It's not that we think it's a bad business; just that there are other companies that perform better on these criteria.
See if management have their own wealth at stake, by checking insider shareholdings in Melcor Developments stock.
Looking for more high-yielding dividend ideas? Try our curated list of dividend stocks with a yield above 3%.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.