Today we'll take a closer look at QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX:QBE) from a dividend investor's perspective. Owning a strong business and reinvesting the dividends is widely seen as an attractive way of growing your wealth. 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.
With QBE Insurance Group yielding 4.2% and having paid a dividend for over 10 years, many investors likely find the company quite interesting. We'd guess that plenty of investors have purchased it for the income. The company also bought back stock equivalent to around 3.2% of market capitalisation this year. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying QBE Insurance Group for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.
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, QBE Insurance Group paid out 72% 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.
Before buying a stock for its income, we want to see if the dividends have been stable in the past, and if the company has a track record of maintaining its dividend. QBE Insurance Group has been paying dividends for a long time, but for the purpose of this analysis, we only examine the past 10 years of payments. This dividend has been unstable, which we define as having fallen by at least 20% one or more times over this time. During the past ten-year period, the first annual payment was US$0.80 in 2009, compared to US$0.36 last year. This works out to be a decline of approximately 7.7% per year over that time. QBE Insurance Group's dividend has been cut sharply at least once, so it hasn't fallen by 7.7% every year, but this is a decent approximation of the long term change.
A shrinking dividend over a ten-year period is not ideal, and we'd be concerned about investing in a dividend stock that lacks a solid record of growing dividends per share.
Dividend Growth Potential
With a relatively unstable dividend, and a poor history of shrinking dividends, it's even more important to see if EPS are growing. QBE Insurance Group's EPS have fallen by approximately 17% per year. With this kind of significant decline, we always wonder what has changed in the business. Dividends are about stability, and QBE Insurance Group's earnings per share, which support the dividend, have been anything but stable.
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. QBE Insurance Group's payout ratio is within an average range for most market participants. Earnings per share have been falling, and the company has cut its dividend at least once in the past. From a dividend perspective, this is a cause for concern. With this information in mind, we think QBE Insurance Group may not be an ideal dividend stock.
Given that earnings are not growing, the dividend does not look nearly so attractive. Very few businesses see earnings consistently shrink year after year in perpetuity though, and so it might be worth seeing what the 11 analysts we track are forecasting for the future.
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 email@example.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.