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Does Rexel S.A. (EPA:RXL) Have A Place In Your Dividend Stock Portfolio?

Simply Wall St

Could Rexel S.A. (EPA:RXL) 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. 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, Rexel likely looks attractive to dividend investors, given its 4.6% dividend yield and eight-year payment history. We'd agree the yield does look enticing. There are a few simple ways to reduce the risks of buying Rexel for its dividend, and we'll go through these below.

Explore this interactive chart for our latest analysis on Rexel!

ENXTPA:RXL Historical Dividend Yield, September 2nd 2019

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. Rexel paid out 61% of its profit as dividends, over the trailing twelve month period. This is a healthy payout ratio, and while it does limit the amount of earnings that can be reinvested in the business, there is also some room to lift the payout ratio over time.

In addition to comparing dividends against profits, we should inspect whether the company generated enough cash to pay its dividend. Rexel paid out 112% of its free cash flow last year, suggesting the dividend is poorly covered by cash flow. While Rexel's dividends were covered by the company's reported profits, free cash flow is somewhat more important, so it's not great to see that the company didn't generate enough cash to pay its dividend. Were it to repeatedly pay dividends that were not well covered by cash flow, this could be a risk to Rexel's ability to maintain its dividend.

Is Rexel's Balance Sheet Risky?

As Rexel 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. Rexel has net debt of 3.48 times its EBITDA, which is getting towards the limit of most investors' comfort zones. Judicious use of debt can enhance shareholder returns, but also adds to the risk if something goes awry.

We calculated its interest cover by measuring its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and dividing this by the company's net interest expense. Rexel has EBIT of 8.16 times its interest expense, which we think is adequate.

Consider getting our latest analysis on Rexel'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. The first recorded dividend for Rexel, in the last decade, was eight years ago. Although it has been paying a dividend for several years now, the dividend has been cut at least once by more than 20%, and we're cautious about the consistency of its dividend across a full economic cycle. During the past eight-year period, the first annual payment was €0.40 in 2011, compared to €0.44 last year. Dividends per share have grown at approximately 1.2% per year over this time. Rexel's dividend payments have fluctuated, so it hasn't grown 1.2% every year, but the CAGR is a useful rule of thumb for approximating the historical growth.

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. While there may be fluctuations in the past , Rexel's earnings per share have basically not grown from where they were five years ago. Over the long term, steady earnings per share is a risk as the value of the dividends can be reduced by inflation.

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. First, we think Rexel has an acceptable payout ratio, although its dividend was not well covered by cashflow. 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. There are a few too many issues for us to get comfortable with Rexel from a dividend perspective. Businesses can change, but we would struggle to identify why an investor should rely on this stock for their income.

Without at least some growth in earnings per share over time, the dividend will eventually come under pressure either from costs or inflation. See if the 13 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.