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Does P. H. Glatfelter Company (NYSE:GLT) Have A Place In Your Dividend Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

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Dividend paying stocks like P. H. Glatfelter Company (NYSE:GLT) 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. If you are hoping to live on your dividends, it's important to be more stringent with your investments than the average punter. Regular readers know we like to apply the same approach to each dividend stock, and we hope you'll find our analysis useful.

In this case, P. H. Glatfelter likely looks attractive to investors, given its 3.2% dividend yield and a payment history of over ten years. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying P. H. Glatfelter for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Click the interactive chart for our full dividend analysis

NYSE:GLT Historical Dividend Yield, July 4th 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. In the last year, P. H. Glatfelter paid out 1206% of its profit as dividends. A payout ratio above 100% is definitely an item of concern, unless there are some other circumstances that would justify it.

Another important check we do is to see if the free cash flow generated is sufficient to pay the dividend. P. H. Glatfelter's cash payout ratio last year was 8.2%, which is quite low and suggests that the dividend was thoroughly covered by cash flow. It's disappointing to see that the dividend was not covered by profits, but cash is more important from a dividend sustainability perspective, and P. H. Glatfelter fortunately did generate enough cash to fund its dividend. If executives were to continue paying more in dividends than the company reported in profits, we'd view this as a warning sign. Very few companies are able to sustainably pay dividends larger than their reported earnings.

Is P. H. Glatfelter's Balance Sheet Risky?

As P. H. Glatfelter has a meaningful amount of debt, we need to check its balance sheet to see if the company might have debt risks. 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. P. H. Glatfelter is carrying net debt of 3.60 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. Interest cover of 2.40 times its interest expense is starting to become a concern for P. H. Glatfelter, and be aware that lenders may place additional restrictions on the company as well.

We update our data on P. H. Glatfelter 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. P. H. Glatfelter has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.36 in 2009, compared to US$0.52 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 3.7% per year over this time.

While the consistency in the dividend payments is impressive, we think the relatively slow rate of growth is unappealing.

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. In the last five years, P. H. Glatfelter's earnings per share have shrunk at approximately 51% per annum. Declining earnings per share over a number of years is not a great sign for the dividend investor. Without some improvement, this does not bode well for the long term value of a company's dividend.

Conclusion

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. We're a bit uncomfortable with its high payout ratio, although at least the dividend was covered by free cash flow. Moreover, earnings have been shrinking. While the dividends have been fairly steady, we'd wonder for how much longer this will be sustainable if earnings continue to decline. Ultimately, P. H. Glatfelter comes up short on our dividend analysis. It's not that we think it is a bad company - just that there are likely more appealing dividend prospects out there on this analysis.

Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. See if the 3 analysts are forecasting a turnaround in our free collection of analyst estimates here.

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